A gallant second in his three prior Grade 1 tries, Gelfenstein Farm’s Sharp Azteca seized an overdue laurel in Saturday’s $750,000 Cigar Mile (G1) at Aqueduct – with an assist from new rider Javier Castellano’s tactical adjustment aboard the 8-5 favorite.
The Jorge Navarro trainee has typically mixed it up on the front end, and his early exertions have told in his Grade 1 placings. Just denied in last December’s Malibu (G1), Sharp Azteca most recently lost a heartbreaker to Battle of Midway in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1). His loss in the Metropolitan Mile (G1) on Belmont Day came by a far bigger margin – six lengths – to Mor Spirit, who ran a career-best that day.
With plenty of speed signed on for the Cigar Mile, Sharp Azteca could have endured another tough beat. But Castellano was too astute for that. Although Sharp Azteca broke sharply, Americanize and Seymourdini were intent on going forward. Castellano sensibly eased Sharp Azteca back into a stalking third. Thus he masterminded the ideal trip, sitting in the proverbial catbird’s seat watching a pressured Seymourdini reel off fractions of :22.78 and :45.97 on the fast track.
Sharp Azteca made his move leaving the far turn, readily overtaking the leaders at the six-furlong mark in 1:10.90, and the 125-pound highweight pulled 5 1/4 lengths clear down the stretch. The rallying Mind Your Biscuits, who’d caught Sharp Azteca in the Malibu, couldn’t get close enough to threaten in the rematch and settled for second.
Photo credits Robert Mauhar / Coglianese Photos