12/27/2015 5:25PM

Sudden Surprise has to work hard to win Great White Way

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Heavily favored Sudden Surprise, under John Velazquez, scores by a half-length over Dr. Shane in the Great White Way.

Heavily favored Sudden Surprise won Sunday’s $150,000 Great White Way division of the New York Stallion Stakes at Aqueduct, but it wasn’t as easy as the tote board would have suggested.

Sent off an overwhelming 1-5 favorite, Sudden Surprise had to deal with pressure early and then again late from second choice Dr. Shane, but in the end Sudden Surprise prevailed by a half-length. Dr. Shane finished 9 1/4 lengths in front of Bluegrass Prevails, who got third by a head over his Gary Gullo-trained stablemate Gaming.

It was the fifth win from six starts for Sudden Surprise, a son of the New York-based first-year stallion Giant Surprise owned and bred by Mike Repole and trained by Todd Pletcher. It was the fourth stakes win for Sudden Surprise, all in sprints. His lone loss came in the Sleepy HollowStakes, run at a mile.

Sudden Surprise had been entered in Saturday’s $100,000 Damon Runyon Stakes at a mile and 70 yards, but with a 50-percent higher purse and at a more favorite distance, the Great White Way made more sense.

Sudden Surprise, under John Velazquez, broke on top and made the front with Dr. Shane, under Manny Franco, within a half-length after an opening quarter in 22.92 seconds. Sudden Surprise opened up a two-length margin around the far turn and into the stretch, but he had to withstand a late push from Dr. Shane in deep stretch to hold on.

“I've known him for so long, so I know he's nice and he's going to be very game,” said Velazquez, who thought enough of Sudden Surprise to come up from Florida to ride. “I think this is probably his distance as well. He's a really game horse, so whatever comes to him, he'll put up a really good fight down the lane. It was a really good effort."

Sudden Surprise covered the six furlongs in 1:11.38 and returned $2.60 to win.

Byron Hughes, Pletcher’s assistant, said that Sudden Surprise would likely be kept against New York-breds. The next New York-bred sprintstakes is the $125,000 Rego Park at six furlongs on Feb. 14.

Earlier on Sunday’s card, favored Absatootly ($5.80) held off Backwood Bay to win the $100,000 East View Stakes for New York-bred juvenile fillies by a nose.

With Kendrick Carmouche subbing for Jose Ortiz, who was involved in a spill in the opener, Absatootly shrugged off early pace pressure from B Three, had a clear margin in midstretch, and then held on as a resurgent Backwood Bay made a late run that fell just short.

Absatootly, a daughter of Mineshaft trained by Charlton Baker, won for the second time in three starts. She covered a mile and 70 yards in1:44.50.

"I thought she would be able to handle stretching out a bit, but I think she's better sprinting,” Baker said. “The last stride I was thinking, 'I don't want to get beat like that!' I think after this we'll go back to sprinting.”

Backwood Bay was the fourth second-place finish in a stakes race for trainer Linda Rice in two days. She ran second in both stakes at Aqueduct on Saturday - the Damon Runyon and Gravesend - and the Grade  1 La Brea at Santa Anita with Hot City Girl.

Ortiz avoids serious injury

Ortiz was unseated at the three-eighths pole in the opener when his mount, Blooper, suffered a cardiovascular collapse and died suddenly. Ortiz complained of pain to his left ankle and was taken to North Shore University Hospital for X-rays on his left ankle.

The X-rays were negative and Ortiz may return to the saddle on Wednesday.

In that same race, Successful Sweep broke down at the eighth pole, breaking both sesamoids in her left foreleg and had to be euthanized.

Jockey Angel Arroyo was okay and rode his remaining mounts.