Stretch-out sprinter Nine Route wires Gander

Sunday, February 18th, 2018

NYRA/Chelsea Durand

By Sarah Mace

Stretching out from a pair of dirt sprints, Nine Route (The Factor) put a stakes victory on the board in his fourth career start at Aqueduct Sunday with a frontrunning victory in the one-mile $100,000 Gander Stakes for New York-bred 3-year-olds.

Trained by Jeremiah Engelhart for retired NFL coach Bill Parcells’ August Dawn Farm, the bay colt was piloted to victory by a hot-handed Dylan Davis who began Sunday’s race program with a personal rolling pick three. Davis would go on to sweep the first five races and win six on the card.

Headlined by undefeated 1-5 favorite Empire Line, the field of five was reduced by one on race day with the scratch of Michael Dilger-trainee Evaluator. The would-be contender, beaten just a nose by Empire Line in the Damon Runyon on January 15, is stabled in Belmont’s barn 10, now under a 21-day quarantine due to an outbreak of equine herpes myeloencephalopathy (EHM), which has claimed the life of one of Tom Albertrani’s fillies. No other horses have exhibited symptoms of the disease.

Gio d’Oro, the 7-2 second choice in the Gander, broke on top, but Nine Route, who was the lone confirmed speed of the quartet, successfully challenged for the lead by the time the horses exited the chute.

NYRA/Robert Mauhar

Nine Route traveled comfortably at the rail along the backstretch, 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Gio d’Oro, followed by Empire Line another length back on the rail, and Engineers Report. After early splits ticked off in 23.91 and 48.20, Empire Line made a run at Nine Route, but dropped back and came under the whip. The favorite seemed not to have relished his first encounter with off going.

Nine Route completed three-quarters in 1:14.04 and edged clear in the stretch on his way to a convincing 3-length victory. Gio d’Oro won the battle for second, finishing a half-length ahead of a somewhat resurgent Empire Line, while longshot Engineers Report brought up the rear. The final time for the mile was 1:41.25 over the sloppy (sealed) track. [VIDEO REPLAY]

Off the board in his July 2 Belmont debut on the grass for Bill Mott, and only resurfacing on December 8 to break his maiden on dirt by more than six lengths for Engelhart, Nine Route came into the Gander off a solid allowance win over “good” going. He scored both sprint victories on the front end and for the colt’s stakes debut both trainer and jockey were minded to position Nine Route where he has done his best work.

“He was on the lead his last two races and coming in we thought he might be able to do the same thing today,” said Engelhart. “Dylan did a really nice job with him. Sometimes he tends to start a bit sluggish, but he got out of there okay and really handled the track which was also a concern.”

Added Davis, “He broke a step slow and I got a little worried, but once he got into stride, he took control and I got him to relax. He geared down and knew what he had to do turning for home.”

Dylan also noted that the sloppy conditions didn’t seem to bother the colt. “He handled it [the off-going] better than the others and just got the job done. He had no problems getting over it.”

Reviewing the Nine Route’s young career, Engelhart said, “He’s now 3-for-3 for us and he’s pleasantly surprised me every time. In his first start for us I wasn’t sure he would be able to handle the dirt and he did that, second start I was worried about allowance company and he passed that test and today we had some questions if he would handle a route distance and he did it pretty impressive.”

The conditioner has no specific plans for the colt’s next start.

Bred by McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds LLC, Nine Route is out of Flash Act, a Kentucky-bred multiple winner by Sky Mesa out of multiple Grade 1 winner Missy’s Mirage (Stop the Music). Missy’s Mirage is a half-sister to Grade 1 winner Classy Mirage, the dam of Grade 1 winning sire Dublin.

Nine Route sold to Lane’s End for $190,000 as a weanling at the 2015 Fasig-Tipton November sale in Kentucky. When he was offered the following summer at the Fasig-Tipton New York-bred preferred sale in Saratoga, August Dawn Farm had to go to $290,000 to get him into the stable. From three wins in four starts, he has earned $127,448.

Leave a Reply