11/15/2015 5:41PM

Sheriffa doesn't need lead to win Staten Island

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Sheriffa, ridden by Cornelio Velasquez, overcomes a poor start to win the Staten Island division of the New York Stallion Series Stakes.

Expected to set the pace, Sheriffa broke behind the field but recovered to win Sunday’s Staten Island division of the $125,000 New York Stallion Stakes by a length at Aqueduct.

Sheriffa ($7.60) looked like the main speed on paper, but it was last year’s Staten Island winner, Vicki’s Dancer, who broke to a clear lead and set fractions of 23.10 and 46.07 seconds while slightly removed from the rail, as Sheriffa recovered to reach a contending position down the backstretch.

 Vicki’s Dancer drifted out into the stretch while tiring, and Sheriffa was up to take the lead with a furlong remaining. She drove clear beneath Cornelio Velasquez, and held off a late run from Saythreehailmary’s, who had finished second in the Staten Island last year as well. Old Harbor was third. Vicki’s Dancer faded to finish next-to-last in the field of eight New York-bred fillies and mares.

Sheriffa ran seven furlongs in 1:23.57 on a fast track, and earned $75,000.

“She broke slow and backed up right before the gate opened,” said Velasquez. “I had no choice but to run her behind the 3[(Old Harbor] at that point, but she ran a big one today. When she got to the lead, she galloped.”

Claimed by Linda Rice for a mere $16,000 last year, Sheriffa has now won her last four starts against New York-breds since December 31, including the $200,000 Critical Eye Stakes in May. However, this was the first time Sheriffa, a 4-year-old filly by Posse, has ever won without the early lead.

“I was sick to my stomach [after the break],” said Rice. “She kind of out-broke the gates, popped them open and got off awkwardly, but Cornelio sat patiently and got the job done anyway. She’s been a great claim. There’s always quite a few we don’t talk about, but she’s one of the good ones.”