OZONE PARK, N.Y. - David Jacobson and Southern Equine Stables' Salutos Amigos kept his perfect record over the Aqueduct Racetrack's inner track intact, erupting through the stretch to win his second straight Grade 3, $200,000 Tom Fool Handicap by 2 ½ lengths on Saturday.
Breaking towards the back of the 11-horse field with Cornelio Velasquez aboard, Salutos Amigos trailed through the early going as two-time Grade 1 Carter winner Dads Caps led the opening quarter in 22.36 seconds and the half in 44.99. As Dads Caps succumbed to a two-way attack from Mewannarose and Stallwalkin' Dude at the top of the stretch, Velasquez angled Salutos Amigos well into the clear as the gelding picked up momentum leaving the turn.
Salutos Amigos, fully engaged in the middle of the track, unleased a powerful kick, swallowing his rivals throughout the stretch to complete the final quarter-mile in 23.87.
"I had the best horse in the race," said Velasquez. "The only other horse I was worried about was Rudy's horse [Dads Caps]. I knew I wanted to wait until the quarter-pole before I put my horse in the clear, and when I did, I had a lot of horse."
Salutos Amigos, now 4-for-4 over the Aqueduct inner track, finished the six-furlong sprint in 1:10.17 and returned $4.80 for a $2 win wager.
With only one win from nine starts in the 12 months since taking last year's Tom Fool by four lengths over Dads Caps, the millionaire gelding had experienced one of the worst slumps of his career. Most recently, he posted back-to-back runner-up finishes in Southern California, where he had laid uncharacteristically close to the pace.
"Speed is really good at Santa Anita so we were laying a little close and that was the plan," said Jacobson. "I guess it kind of backfired a little bit, but he did run very well out there. But, taking him back and making that one run that Cornelio does so well, he's back to the way he used to be."
Always Sunshine rallied for second, 1 ¾ lengths ahead of fellow Jacobson trainee Stallwalkin' Dude, who was making his first start since December.
"With Stallwalkin' Dude, we wanted to be close but not necessarily on the lead," Jacobson said. "He ran a pretty good race, too, off the bench. He'll definitely improve off of this race."
Mewannarose, Nubin Ridge, Spartiatis, Loki's Vengeance, Angry Moon, Dads Caps, Alex the Terror and Waco completed the order of finish.
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