01/30/2016 6:04PM

Sassicaia makes late decision to run in Toboggan look good

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Debra Roma
Sassicaia, ridden by John Bisono, gives trainer Rudy Rodriguez his third win on the card in the Grade 3 Toboggan.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - He was the last to enter, but the first to finish.

Sassicaia, who was not entered in the Grade 3 Toboggan the first two times it was scheduled, found his way to the entry box on Wednesday and then found his way through a small hole in deep stretch to win the $150,000 Toboggan by a neck over 46-1 Mewannarose. It was a half-length back to even-money favorite Green Gratto in third.

Fabulous Kid finished 2 3/4 lengths farther back in fourth. He was followed, in order, by Heaven’s Runway, Alex the Terror, Dads Caps, Sam Sparkle, and Sir Rockport.

Captain Serious took a bad step at the quarter pole, stumbled and unseated jockey Aaron Gryder. Captain Serious was okay, but Gryder was taken to a local hospital to be examined for issues with his right leg and left foot, according to the New York Racing Association.

For Sassicaia, a 5-year-old son of Bernardini, it was the fourth win from 15 starts and first in a stakes race. He is owned by Robert LaPenta, who purchased him for $1.6 million as a 2-year-old in training at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales auction in March 2013.

Sassicaia won a second-level allowance race by a length over the inner track on Dec. 26, his first start following a fourth-month layoff. The Toboggan was originally carded for Jan. 18, and drew a field of six. Trainer Rudy Rodriguez thought Sassicaia needed more time.

The Jan. 18 card was canceled due to high winds and the Toboggan was rescheduled for Jan. 24. Sassicaia was not entered again, but Mewannarose was one of three new horses in the field. The Jan. 24 card was canceled due to a snowstorm.

Sassicaia had been training very well and Rodriguez along with John Panagot, the racing manager for LaPenta, decided to enter him.

“The horse was training so good, but I got to give all the credit to John,” Rodriguez said. “He said ‘Let’s take a chance. If we don’t like it we’ll scratch.’ But the horse was giving us all the indications he wanted to run.”

As expected in the Toboggan, Green Gratto set the pace. Breaking from post 10 under Kendrick Carmouche, Green Gratto ran a quarter in 22.12 seconds and a half-mile in 44.92 while being chased by Mewannarose and Alex the Terror.

Meanwhile, Sassicaia had gradually moved into contention under John Bisono after breaking last. Approaching the quarter pole, he had just passed Captain Serious, who took his misstep, unseating Gryder.

Turning for home, Bisono rallied Sassicaia along the inside and set sail after Green Gratto, who had a two-length lead at the eighth pole. Bisono got Sassicaia off the rail, squeezed him between a resurgent Mewannarose and a game Green Gratto to get up at the wire.

Sassicaia covered six furlongs in 1:10.56 and returned $14.60 to win.

“He was looking to kick in,” Bisono said. “Once it opened up there and he got that little room, I knew I had a shot to get them at the wire. He didn’t hesitate too much to go through there.”

It was the third win on the card for Rodriguez and sixth in the last three days in 10 races. Rodriguez also ran Dads Caps in the Toboggan, but the two-time Grade 1 winner - making his first start since June 5 - could finish no better than seventh.