A rallying upset winner in last year’s Del Mar H. (G2), Astronaut surprised bettors by leading wire-to-wire at 15-1 in Saturday’s $300,000 Red Smith (G2) at Aqueduct. The five-year-old horse sprinted to the fore after the break, establishing splits in :24.81, :49.82, and 1:14.98 on a short lead, and saved plenty for the finish, drawing off to a three-length decision in the 1 3/8-mile turf affair.
John M.B. O‘Connor campaigns the Kentucky-bred son of Quality Road, and Astronaut, who exiting a third in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) at Aqueduct on Oct. 8, was making his second start since being transferred back to Tom Albertani. John Sadler had trained the dark bay in his previous nine outings in Southern California, and Astronaut improved his career mark to 14-3-5-1, $511,860.
“I had him early on in his career before he went to California, and we always did like the horse back then,” Albertrani said. “He always looked like a horse that had talent. He had some good races out in California and I think that one race off the layoff set him up for his last two.”
Kendrick Carmouche was up, and Astronaut stopped the teletimer in 2:14 on the firm turf.
“The horse ran an amazing race last time in the Grade 1,” said Carmouch, who notched his third win of the day. “This time, I wanted to put him into the race and see if they would let me walk the dog a little bit and when he came off the bit around the second turn, I knew I was a winner. I just had to make sure I was still going easy. Tom Albertrani and the owner spotted this horse right and they made us a winner.”
“We were looking for the lead today,” Albertrani added. “We stayed close last time and we thought we might be able to steal it on the lead today. Kendrick did the right thing and made the right choice.”
Highest Honors, the 9-2 third choice among 12 runners, stalked just off the pacesetter and tried to make a run in upper stretch, winding up second-best by 1 1/4 lengths over 30-1 Cold Hard Cash, who tracked in second early. Daunt came next in fourth and was followed by 2-1 favorite Balthus, Beacon Hill, Mooney Love, Shawdyshawdyshawdy, Soldier Rising, Temple, Reigning Spirit, and Dynadrive.
Bred by Anastasie Astrid Christiansen-Croy, Astronaut is out of the German-bred mare Armanda, a daughter of Acatenango.
In the $175,000 Fall Highweight H. (G3), Greeley and Ben rallied up the rail to take the lead in deep stretch and narrowly proved best in a four-horse photo, scoring by a neck under a 130-pound impost.
Manny Franco was up on for owner Darryl Abramowitz and new trainer Faith Wilson, and Greeley and Ben was wheeling back on 16-days rest following a 1 3/4-length victory over starter allowance rivals at Aqueduct. Off at 7.40-1, he completed six furlongs in 1:11.95.
Claimed for $40,000 four starts previously at Saratoga, the eight-year-old gelding notched his first graded tally following wins in the Sam’s Town S. at Delta Downs and Stonerside Sprint at Sam Houston earlier this season, and Greeley and Ben also captured last year’s David M. Vance S. at Remington Park.
He edged 3-2 favorite Runninsonofagun, who surged between rivals three-wide to just miss. It was another head back to 2-1 second choice Factor It In on the far outside, and Jaxon Traveler, who surged to the lead in upper stretch and grudgingly way to Greeley and Ben in the final stages, weakened to be another neck back in fourth.
Synthesis, Happy Farm, and Bezos, who set the pace in :22.90 and :46.67 before giving way, completed the order.
By Greeley’s Conquest, Greeley and Ben was bred in Kentucky by Millard Seldin Rev. Trust. He’s out of the stakes-placed Langfuhr mare Traci’s Wild, and Greeley and Ben has now earned $882,698 from a 39-23-7-2 record.