Trainer Linda Rice already has her horse for the Wood Memorial. Now, she has her horse for the Gotham as well.
One week after winning the Grade 3 Withers with Max Player, Rice won Saturday’s $150,000 Jimmy Winkfield Stakes with Montauk Player, who rallied from last under Jose Lezcano after getting shuffled back entering the far turn to win by 1 1/2 lengths at Aqueduct.
Secret Rules, who dueled through a hot opening half-mile with longshot Johnny Ritt, held second by a 1 1/4 lengths over that rival. Old Chestnut finished fourth followed by Newstome, Polar Bear Pete, and the slow-starting Quixotic.
The win was the second straight for Montauk Traffic after a disastrous debut at Laurel on Dec. 14.
“I always liked this colt, I worked him a couple of times before he ran and he worked good,” Lezcano said. “He went to Laurel and he ran so bad I said ‘What do I know about horses?’ and as soon as he come back here he wins, and today he does the same thing.”
Saturday, Montauk Traffic raced along the inside in fourth, about four lengths off the early pace, while Secret Rules and Johnny Ritt dueled through an opening quarter in 23.07 seconds. Entering the far turn, the horses behind Montauk Traffic went by him and Montauk Traffic was last after a half-mile in 46.77 seconds.
Lezcano kept Montauk Traffic on the inside before he was able to tip into the three path approaching the eighth pole. Secret Rules and Johnny Ritt were still shoulder to shoulder when Montauk Traffic got clear and went after them. Montauk Traffic rallied past the dueling duo and drew off to get the win.
Montauk Traffic, a son of Cross Traffic owned by Chris Fountoukis, covered the seven furlongs in 1:25.64 and returned $7.60 as the third choice.
Lezcano was confident he would make up the necessary ground in the stretch.
“I got so much horse and that’s the thing, you call on him and he responds very, very quickly,” Lezcano said.
Rice said she was a little concerned going into the turn.
“It looked like we weren’t making up any ground, we were getting shuffled back a little bit but I’ve got quite a bit of confidence in this horse and Jose Lezcano,” Rice said.
The victory in the Montauk was the 21st of the meet for the team of Rice and Lezcano. Overall, Rice has a meet-leading 33 victories among trainers while Lezcano has a meet-best 44 wins to lead all riders.
Article by David Grening originally published on the Daily Racing Form website Feb. 8.
Photo by Elsa Lorieul/Coglianese.