OZONE PARK, N.Y. -- The Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens looked at the tote board prior to the running of Saturday's Grade 3, $150,000 Bold Ruler Handicap at Aqueduct and saw his horse, Le Grand Cru, was the longest shot on the board at odds of 7-1.
"He's the least thought of of all the horses?" Jerkens recalled thinking. "I'm not a very good handicapper. To quote the great Hirsch Jacobs, 'It's better to be surprised than disappointed.'"
Le Grand Cru, a disappointment for most of the year, surprised his five rivals, coming back on the underachieving Past the Point in the final eighth of a mile to win the Bold Ruler by a half-length. Past the Point, who looked like he was going to blow past Le Grand Cru turning for home, drifted out significantly in the stretch but held second by three-quarters of a length over 2-1 favorite Sing Baby Sing. Cherokee Country and Lucky Island completed the order of finish. Gold Trippi scratched.
The victory was the second straight for Le Grand Cru, who four weeks earlier won the Grade 3 Kelso Handicap at Belmont when that one-mile race was washed off the turf to the main track.
Under Jose Lezcano, Le Grand Cru took up a stalking position in third as Lucky Island and Sing Baby Sing dueled through an opening quarter in 22.47 seconds. As Sing Baby Sing dropped back, Le Grand Cru moved within a half-length of Lucky Island after a half-mile in 44.92 seconds.
Approaching the quarter pole, Past the Point, under Edgar Prado, cruised up outside of Le Grand Cru and Lucky Island and appeared to be "home-free," according to Prado. But Past the Point drifted out and Lezcano kept busy on Le Grand Cru who maintained a straighter course than Past the Point to get the win. Le Grand Cru, a son of Dynaformer owned by Judson Streicher, covered the seven furlongs in 1:22.19 and returned $17.80.
"He used to chicken out when someone took the lead from him," Jerkens said. "It was a very good ride. . . . The [Kelso] gave him confidence; the jockey is riding him good, too."
The Bold Ruler is the local prep for the Grade 1 Cigar Mile here on Nov. 28. Jerkens was non-committal about whether Le Grand Cru would run in that race.