04/02/2010 11:00PM

Warrior's Reward noses out Musket Man in Carter


OZONE PARK, N.Y - Trainer Ian Wilkes's faith in Warrior's Reward proved justified Saturday as the former underachiever became a Grade 1 winner with a stirring nose victory over Musket Man in the $250,000 at Aqueduct. It was 4 1/2 lengths back to Munnings, the 6-5 favorite, in third.

It was the first stakes win of any sort for Warrior's Reward, who had lost his previous six stakes starts, including a fifth-place finish in last year's Grade 1 Travers Stakes at Saratoga. That race was run at 1 1/4 miles.

"After he couldn't get the distance in the Travers, we decided 'Let's make him a seven-eighths or a mile. Let's make him a real good horse,' " Wilkes said. "He wants to be a good horse."

Under Julien Leparoux, Warrior's Reward sat in the back of the pack, about five lengths off the pace while Digger ran an opening quarter of 22.85 seconds and a half-mile in 45.92 while being chased by Elusive Warning. Musket Man, meanwhile, was in fifth position, racing along the inside.

Turning for home, Leparoux swung Warrior's Reward six wide, while Ramon Dominguez was able to split horses aboard Musket Man.

The two hooked up in midstretch and Warrior's Reward prevailed in a final furlong run in 11.99 seconds. Warrior's Reward, a son of Medaglia d'Oro, covered the seven furlongs in 1:21.62 and returned $9.10.

"When he pulled him to the outside I knew he had a lot of horse and I know what this horse can do," Wilkes said. "I felt good, but Musket Man ran a great race too."

Wilkes dedicated the victory to owner Steven Miles Jr., who couldn't make the trip to New York from Kentucky due to health issues.

"The travel would have been too much for him," Wilkes said. "We've been together for a long time and he's finally got a Grade 1."

For Derek Ryan, the trainer of Musket Man, the narrow loss was deja vu all over again. Three weeks ago, the Ryan-trained Schoolyard Dreams lost a nose decision to Odysseus in the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby.

"I don't want to see another photograph, how's that," Ryan said. "Game effort, but what are you going to do? Tough beat. I'm getting sick of it."

Warrior's Reward and Musket Man could meet again in the Churchill Downs Handicap on Kentucky Derby Day.

Eightyfiveinafifty smokes 'em in Bay Shore

Moments after Eightyfiveinafifty scored a 2 1/2-length victory in Saturday's at Aqueduct, trainer Gary Contessa said that the dream of running in the Kentucky Derby was still alive.

The caveat, Contessa said, was he wanted to talk things over with jockey Ramon Dominguez to get an opinion on whether the horse could indeed go a distance of ground. If Dominguez tells Contessa what he told reporters after the race, there will be no Kentucky Derby try for Eightyfiveinafifty.

"My opinion, I think the horse is probably a one-turn horse," Dominguez said after the race. "Even a mile, as long as it's one turn. I mean, he was very straightforward, very straight the first part. When it was time to pick it up from the three-sixteenths pole home he was drifting out pretty good. Other than that he just has a lot of natural speed."

Eightyfiveinafifty used that natural speed to take control of the Bay Shore soon after the start. After getting briefly distracted by the lack of a rail coming out of the chute, Eightyfiveinafifty put his mind back on his business and scored an uncomplicated victory in the $200,000 Bay Shore.

Hurricane Ike, making his first start on dirt, finished second, 2 1/2 lengths ahead of third-place finisher Remand. Raynick's Jet finished fourth while Noah's Dream finished fifth. El Rocco was pulled up with an injury. New York Racing Association officials said he had to be euthanized due to a fractured left knee.

The Bay Shore was a good bounce-back race for Eightyfiveinafifty, who bolted as the 1-4 favorite in the Whirlaway in February. Contessa equipped Eightyfiveinafifty with a blinker on the outside of his right eye, in order to help keep the horse focused. Aside from cocking his head to the left, the horse stayed relatively straight through fractions of 22.67 seconds and a half in 45.01. He covered seven furlongs in 1:21.89 while drifting out. Eightyfiveinafifty is a son of Forest Camp owned by Harold Lerner, John Moirano, and Team Stallion Racing.

"I'm glad to get this one behind me," Contessa said by phone from his upstate home where he was recovering from surgery.

"I thought it was impressive. I still think the Derby Trial" - a Grade 3 one-mile race at Churchill Downs on April 24 - "is not the dumbest idea in the world. Today, I will admit he looked like a miler or seven-eighths horse. But if we run him in the Derby Trial in three weeks and if he runs off the screen, he punches his own ticket."

Excelsior: Goldsville too tough

After spending a fruitless year on turf and synthetic surfaces in Southern California, Goldsville has come back East to find his fortune. The 5-year-old scored his richest payday in Saturday's , catching pacesetter Seniors Pride in the upper stretch and edging away under Ramon Dominguez, who was riding his fourth winner on the card.

Goldsville had been freshened for two months after running fifth in the San Pasqual at Santa Anita, and returned to New York to win a second-level allowance in his first start for Mike Hushion on the Gotham undercard.

Goldsville stalked Seniors Pride from the start through fractions of 24.35, 49.20 and 1:13.79 seconds, challenged for command on the outside once straightened away into the stretch, and drove clear to win the Grade 3 Excelsior by three-quarters of a length over Nite Light, the 7-5 favorite.

"We were able to get in good position with very comfortable fractions," said Dominguez. "He was very tough today, especially in the stretch. Today, he ran the same way as he did a few weeks ago when I was riding him for the first time. He just settled behind the pace and then took the lead. This horse continues to improve."

Goldsville ($5.10) ran the 1 1/8 miles in 1:51.43 over a fast main track, and earned $120,000 for owner Marc Ferrell.

"Getting a mile and an eighth for the first time was a relief," said Hushion, now a phenomenal 7-2-0 with his last nine stakes runners in New York. "I can't say I wasn't nervous. There's a reason my teeth are half the size - from grinding them down."

Nite Light was fourth and spinning his wheels at the eighth pole, but jumped back to his left lead in deep stretch and surged belatedly on the rail to get up for second by a neck over Seniors Pride. Seniors Pride held for third by the same margin over More Than a Reason, with Stargleam completing the order of finish.

"It was kind of what we were afraid of," said trainer Todd Pletcher of Nite Light's belated run. "A mile and an eighth is just not his best distance. He finished up well; he just ran out of ground."

- Dave Litfin