03/11/2017 6:44PM

Spartiatis ends 86-year-old trainer's graded-stakes win drought


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Trainer Leon Blusiewicz pulled off the first half of what could be a cool weekend stakes double when Spartiatis reeled in loose-on-the-lead Chief Lion inside the 70-yard marker en route to a two-length victory in Saturday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Tom Fool Handicap at Aqueduct.

Blusiewicz has only two horses in his barn. The other, Admiral Blue, is scheduled to run in Sunday’s $125,000 Stymie Stakes at Aqueduct.

For Blusiewicz, 86, it was his first graded stakes win since Millions won the Grade 3 Laurel Futurity on Oct. 31, 1998. It was his first graded win in New York since Mighty Magee won the Grade 3 Aqueduct Handicap on Jan. 15, 1996.

“It means a whole lot,” Blusiewicz said. “At 86, are you kidding? I’m happy for the owner. He’s such a great guy, he supported me for so many years.”

Spartiatis is owned and bred by Constantine Peter Beler, who, according to Blusiewicz, is 88.

It was only the fifth win from 31 career starts for Spartiatis, a 7-year-old gelding by Scat Daddy. Blusiewicz said Spartiatis is a bit rambunctious, but has calmed down a bit since Blusiewicz got him a goat as a stall companion.

“That goat really settled him, he loves that goat,” Blusiewicz said.

As settled as he has become, Spartiatis broke sharp enough to be on the lead, had Maragh opted. Spartiatis was vying for second with Green Gratto and The Great War, who were pursuing Chief Lion through an opening quarter in 22.82 seconds.

Maragh was able to get Spartiatis four lengths off the pace after Chief Lion ran his opening half-mile in 46.21 seconds.

Maragh saved ground on Spartiatis until the quarter-pole, where he tipped him four wide. He moved into second in upper stretch and, though Chief Lion was still clear, Maragh felt confident Chief Lion had gone too fast a pace to maintain.

“When I straightened up, he was like three or four lengths in front of me, but I felt like I had him measured,” Maragh said. “Knowing Chief Lion [was] a little late in his previous races, I was pretty confident I was going to catch him.”

Spartiatis covered six furlongs in 1:11.23 and returned $12.20 to win.

Chief Lion finished second by 2 1/4 lengths over King Kranz who was followed, in order, by Sassicaia, the 2-1 favorite, Sir Rockport, All Star Red, Green Gratto, and The Great War.

Blusiewicz said Spartiatis will point to the Grade 1 Carter Handicap on April 8 at Aqueduct.