04/09/2016 7:24PM

Salutos Amigos scores first Grade 1 win with typical late kick

Debra A. Roma
Despite Calculator, right, drifting toward him in the final furlong, Salutos Amigos was able to prevail by a head.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Persistence finally paid off for Salutos Amigos, who uncorked his patented late run for a last-to-first victory in Saturday's $400,000 Carter Handicap, his first Grade 1 success in nine tries.

As has become typical for Salutos Amigos, he raced far back in last through the opening stages, and still trailed while fanning out wide approaching the stretch under Cornelio Velasquez. From that point on, the 6-year-old gelding closed inexorably to prevail by a head over California invader Calculator in the 116th running of the seven-furlong race.

Had the order of finish been reversed, there likely would have been an inquiry. In the final furlong, Calculator bore out steadily and carried Salutos Amigos out past the middle of the track. Both were able to overtake Dads Caps, who had taken over from pacesetter Green Gratto turning for home and momentarily seemed en route to his third straight win in the Carter.

In the end, Salutos Amigos prevailed by a head over Calculator, who had 1 1/2 lengths on Dads Caps. Anchor Down was fourth, followed by Stallwalkin' Dude, Sassicaia, Majestic Affair, and Green Gratto.

"My horse broke good, but I didn't want him too close because he wouldn't see anyone," said Velasquez.

"The horse in front was coming out, but once I was able to put him in the clear, I had a lot of horse the last sixteenth."

Salutos Amigos carried top weight of 123 pounds, giving six pounds to Calculator. He ran seven furlongs in 1:23.15 over a sealed muddy track, improving to 7 for 7 over off-going, and 12 for 38 overall.

"Even though he is a gelding, he deserves a Grade 1 under his belt," said winning trainer David Jacobson. "I don't think we got the best trip. He's such a good horse. I think he overcame going wide, getting bumped. Usually he breaks a little better – he's the first one out of the gate, and then we drop him back. So, I was a little concerned for about a minute eight or nine seconds. It's all heart with him."