Some Monday good news

Among the sadness at Aqueduct on Saturday was some good news; between the third and the fourth races, NYRA presented a $5,000 check to the Exceller Fund; Exceller Fund board members photographer Barbara Livingston and writer Steve Haskin accepted the donation. Exceller, who beat two Triple Crown winners, Seattle Slew and Affirmed, in the 1978 Jockey Club Gold Cup, died in an overseas slaughterhouse in 1997. The Exceller Fund was created to “provide a future beyond the finish line” for thoroughbred racehorses, and is one of many worthy organizations dedicated to taking care of horses when their race careers are over.

If you’re heading to Aqueduct this Saturday, consider bringing an unwrapped toy for the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots Christmas drive. Toys can be donated from noon until 2 pm; you can also make a monetary donation.

Remember this guy?

His name is Early Response, and he’s a Hook and Ladder two-year-old owned in part by a friend of a mine, and he made his debut on a super-sloppy Saratoga track in August. He lost by the narrowest of margins to Scooty the Pro, and was second again his second start. His trainer then ran him in two restricted stakes races, and Early Response finished off the board in both.

Sunday, he returned to the maiden claiming ranks, and lived up to his name. He raced to the front, and jockey Eibar Coa took him back to third; coming around the far turn, Early Response dropped further back to fourth, and in the stretch he looked well out of it. He found another gear, though, when he hit the furlong marker, charged up, split horses, and won under by a length and a quarter, under wraps, making it look easy. Congratulations to him and his connections, and I’ll look forward to seeing this state-bred colt through the winter at the Big A. It was nice to have something celebrate on a dreary Sunday, after an impossibly bleak Saturday.

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