Last Gunfighter continued his upward ascent with a sharp-looking
score on Saturday in his graded stakes debut, Aqueduct Racetrack’s
Grade 3, $150,000
Excelsior for 3-year-olds and up.
The Excelsior was the fifth straight win and third stakes score
for Last Gunfighter, a 4-year-old John D. Gunther homebred who is
unbeaten for trainer Chad Brown.
As Colizeo and Mordi’s Miracle scrambled for the early lead,
Last Gunfighter was content to race in fifth in the field of seven as
the top two battled through a quarter
mile in 22.73 seconds and a half in 46.84. Last Gunfighter commenced a
rally inside the three eighths but found himself trapped behind Mordi’s
Miracle and inside of Joan’s Choice at the head of the stretch.
With three sixteenths to travel, Mordi’s Miracle drifted outward
and Joan’s Choice dropped back, allowing Last Gunfighter to rally along
the inside and kick clear to
a two-length victory. Isn’t He Perfect finished an additional 5 ½
lengths behind Mordi’s Miracle in third.
Last Gunfighter, the 3-1 third choice, returned $8.30 for a $2
win wager. His final time for 1 1/8 miles over the inner track was
“I had an opening on the inside because the leader was about two
paths off the rail,” said winning jockey Rajiv Maragh. “I went for it,
and he was doing a little race
riding and came in on me. Then I angled out, and the leader stepped out
again. I had a lot of horse, I was just trying to find a clear path,
wherever it was. Once I did, he just ran on strong to the end.”
Cherie DeVaux, assistant to Brown, credited Maragh for his patience.
“On paper, it looked like there’d be pace for him to run into,”
said DeVaux. “He ran naturally where he would have been; he wasn’t going
to go up there with the pace.
He fell in where he belonged and picked it up in the end. Rajiv did a
very good job at keeping cool, finding a good place to go, and not
panicking or going someplace he didn’t belong.”
Last Gunfighter lost his first four starts before he was
transferred to trainer Chad Brown. In his first two starts for Brown,
Last Gunfighter broke his maiden in October
Park and won an optional claimer in November at Aqueduct.
In two previous stakes starts, Last Gunfighter won the Raymond
Earl overnight stakes by 4 ¾ lengths on Aqueduct’s main track in
December and the Evening Attire by a
half-length over the inner track on January 19.
Overall, Last Gunfighter is 5-2-2 in nine starts. He has earned $295,405, including $90,000 for his Excelsior victory.
Joan’s Choice was fourth, followed home by Ruler On Ice, Colizeo, and Heart Butte.