OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Robert V. LaPenta's Sassicaia may have been a late entrant in the Grade 3, $150,000 Toboggan, twice rescheduled due to inclement weather, but his timing quickly proved to be impeccable, springing a mild upset to score his first graded stakes victory on Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Even-money favorite Green Gratto vied for early control, narrowly leading the field through an opening quarter-mile in 22.12 seconds. Tracked closely by Mewannarose and Alex the Terror, Green Gratto ran the half in a quick 44.91 and five furlongs in 57.37.
Sassicaia, under jockey John Bisono, contently settled towards the back of the pack, steadily picking off rivals into the turn. The 5-year-old son of Bernardini gained ground in the stretch as Green Gratto and Mewannarose battled for the lead. With less than a sixteenth of a mile left, Sassicaia angled into the two path and barreled between the front runners to win by a neck.
"We knew there was going to be some pace in the beginning so I just let him get himself together," said Bisono, a native of Queens, N.Y. who has spent most of his riding career in Puerto Rico before joining the Mid-Atlantic circuit.
"By the time we hit the half-mile, he started picking it up on his own, which was good," he continued. "We had a little traffic there but we got clear. I knew he was looking to kick in and once he got a little clear, I knew I had a shot to get him to the wire. He didn't hesitate too much to go [between horses]."
Sassicaia, a supplemental nominee to the Toboggan, was sent off as the third choice at 6-1 to return $14.60 for a $2 win wager. The Rudy Rodriguez trainee completed the six-furlong, inner-track sprint in 1:10.56.
"With the week off I didn't want to jinx myself supplementing him into this race but the horse was training so well," said Rodriguez, who also saddled two-time Grade 1 Carter winner Dads Caps to a seventh-place finish. "I have to give all the credit to John [Panagot], the managing partner, and Mr. LaPenta. He said 'let's take a chance and if we don't like where we draw we'll scratch him.' But the horse gave us all the indication that he wanted to run. He loves the inner track, he's run his best races on it and he was ready to fire and he showed it today."
Mewannarose got a half-length in front of Green Gratto for second. Fabulous Kid, Heaven's Runway, Alex the Terror, Dads Caps, Sam Sparkle and Sir Rockport completed the order of finish.
Captain Serious unseated Aaron Gryder near the quarter pole but escaped apparent injury and readily walked back to the barn. Gryder was transported to a local hospital for evaluation for pain in his right leg and left foot and a laceration to his lower lip.
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