Seagull Capital's Sand Dancer overtook 6-5 favorite Fifty in the stretch and outkicked a challenging Archaggelos to capture the fourth running of the $100,000 Woodhaven for 3-year-olds on Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Sand Dancer stayed close to pacesetter Fifty, who led the four-horse field through the opening quarter-mile in 25.38 seconds and the half in 49. Out of the final turn, jockey Trevor McCarthy set Sand Dancer down as Fifty stayed near the rail. In the final furlong, Sand Dancer, making his stakes debut in his eighth start, gained the lead and fended off Archaggelos to his outside to win by a neck, completing 1 1/16 miles on the firm outer turf in 1:42.25.
"We got a perfect trip. It was just like we wanted," McCarthy said. "[Fifty] seemed like the speed in the race and we thought we'd track in second. When they had a slow pace early, I was really happy with everything. I knew [Archaggelos] would be finishing up behind me. So, with that easy pace, I knew it was going to help us in the long run in that last eighth of a mile.
"He had a perfect trip and when I needed him to be game, he was game. He never let the horse by him, so I was really happy with him. He's a bit of a grinder. He's got a huge stride. He quickened for me at the top of the lane and then when Dylan [Davis aboard Archaggelos] came to me, he kicked on again. Huge effort by the whole stable. It was great, everything worked out perfect."
Sand Dancer, trained by Timothy Hills, earned a trip to the winner's circle for the second time in eight career starts and first since breaking his maiden at second asking on October 1 at Belmont Park. The Eslemdereya gelding, who ran second at the Woodhaven distance last out on March 14 at Gulfstream Park, paid $5.40 on a $2 win bet. He more than doubled his career earnings to $118,204.
"We had a drought in Florida for four months and the turf course down there didn't suit his style," Hills said. "He's a long striding horse. I was anxious to get him back to the NYRA turf courses and we got a good result. When the other speed [Nine Route] scratched, I told Trevor you can't let [Fifty] get away. He gave us a phenomenal trip.
"This category for 3-year-olds has a lot of opportunities if you shop around," he added. "He's a big growing horse so I think he's going to get better as he gets older."
Archaggelos, trained by Michael Dickinson, ran second in his return to turf after running his previous three races on all-weather services, including a victory in the Grade 3 Grey on October 1 at Woodbine.
Fifty, co-owned and trained by Linda Rice, had won back-to-back sprints on Aqueduct's main track and ran third in his first start on grass and first-ever stakes appearance. Infield In completed the order of finish while Nine Route was scratched.