Sunday at Aqueduct

Saturday’s feature at Aqueduct was the Rare Treat, named for the “hard hitting filly” owned by George D. Widener who raced in the 1950’s. For a horse with “rare” in her name, she sure hit the track a lot, running 101 times for a record of 16 victories, 20 seconds, and 14 thirds.

Her eponymous race was won by Life At Ten, a stunning chestnut daughter of Malibu Moon. I confess (somewhat shame-faced) that I hadn’t even glanced at a past performance prior to the race, but when I went to the paddock, she was the horse who caught my eye: big, dappled, graceful. Deciding to use her in my betting, I went to the window, only to discover that she was the odds-on favorite. So much for my discerning eye.

She ran beautifully and easily; after the race, jockey Richard Migliore described the race as like “going horseback riding.” The only anxious moment, he said, was in the gate before the race, when Starship Angel acted up in the box next to him. The horse exuded confidence, as we saw in the paddock: “If a horse ever tells you in the warm-up, ‘I’m ready to run,’ she did today,” said Migliore. “That was fun.”

After winning his third stakes race at Aqueduct in 2010, Migliore is a man who looks like he’s having fun. After years of injuries, including a concussion that caused him to miss time not long ago, he seems to be embracing his time at the racetrack, and he’s riding live horses and bringing them home. While not getting the number of mounts that some of his riding colleagues are, he’s ninth in the jockey standings by wins, and fifth by winning percentage.

On Friday, he hosted NYRA’s live chat, answering questions from fans for an hour and a half; you can read the transcript here.

One race later, Backstretch favorite Early Response returned to his winning ways. Claimed from a friend of mine about a year ago, he’d been racing at Finger Lakes and finding the winner’s circle with some regularity; brought back to Aqueduct a couple of months ago, he was claimed by Leah Gyarmati and turned in a couple of serious clunkers. Yesterday, he went straight to the lead and never looked back, winning by three and a half.

And in the ninth race, eight-year-old Naughty New Yorker, apparently aware of the speed-favoring nature of the track yesterday, relinquished his usual spot at the back of the pack to sit off—and in the stretch, set!—the pace, losing by just a head to Almighty Silver. Brought back to the races last June after a year off, he too has turned in some disappointing performances, including one just two weeks ago, but races like yesterday’s show that he is, apparently, not quite done, millionaire that he is.

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