By Sarah Mace
Good Luck Gus (Lookin At Lucky), dominant winner of the New York Breeders’ Futurity for New York-bred juveniles at Finger Lakes on October 4, became a two-time stakes winner on Sunday afternoon when he overcame the widest draw of all in a field of 11 New York-bred 2-year-olds to take down Aqueduct’s $100,000 Damon Runyon Stakes.
When Good Luck Gus drew post 12 to go one mile, 70 yards around two turns over the Aqueduct inner track (post 11 after the scratch of Navy Blue), both trainer Rudy Rodriguez and majority owner Michael Dubb considered scratching, and doubts lingered, at least in Dubb’s mind, until post time. Ultimately, though, Rodriguez felt going in that the draw could be an advantage.
Good Luck Gus finished fifth last out as the 3-5 favorite in the Notebook Stakes on November 16. “If you watch the race, he was jumping and climbing the whole race,” Rodriguez said. “At the top of the stretch, he checked and almost clipped heels, and then when he got to the outside, he started moving along. I think he got very scared when the dirt hit him in the face.” Rodriguez felt that even if his horse lost ground in the Damon Runyon, the wide draw would allow him both to get good position and avoid getting dirt in his face.
Bet down to the 9-2 fifth choice at post time, Good Luck Gus broke well and set up for a stalking trip in the early stages under jockey Ruben Silvera, as pacesetter Regal Minister sailed through early splits of 23.21 and 48.17 seconds. Advancing to third in the three-path along the backstretch run, Good Luck Gus made a successful bid for the lead in the far turn and hit the quarter pole in front. Asked for more in the stretch, Good Luck Gus held off the closers to win by 1 1/2 lengths in a final time of 1:45.80.
A fast-finishing Bullheaded Boy, who has danced all the stakes dances for New York-bred juveniles this year, closed well to nip Tizquick for second by a head. Completing the order of finish were Fleeting, Regal Minister, Saint Joseph, Possilicious, Thrown of my Own, Masons Dream, J C’s Not Brown, and Che La Luna. According to Trakus, Good Luck Gus traveled 39 feet more than the runner up. [VIDEO]
Rodriguez was thrilled with Good Luck Gus’s performance. “Since we got him he’s been very special to us. He’s been training very, very well. The post position was a little hard; we were thinking of scratching, but I think we made the right decision, and he proved it today. I told Silvera not to worry about losing ground, just be well placed. He fought on, and looked like he could handle 1 1/8 miles today.”
Michael Dubb, who purchased the colt at the 2013 Fasig-Tipton New York-bred preferred yearling sale for $97,000, said, “I liked this horse so much I wanted to run in the [Grade 2] Jerome [on January 3]. This horse is by Lookin At Lucky; he wants to go two turns. When we drew the number 12, I said to Rudy, ‘I would be fine waiting’ because I have that much confidence in this horse. He’s two turns, and getting better.”
Dubb was also quick to acknowledge his trainer’s better judgment in opting not to scratch. “Just 10 minutes before the race we were kidding around,” said Dubb. “I said, ‘Rudy, what are you going to tell the jockey?’ And he said, ‘Fourth on the outside, no dirt in the face.’ And he said, ‘What would you tell the jock?’ And I said, ‘Well, I would have scratched.’ Which shows you what the dumb owner knows.”
As to the future, Dubb added, “We’re really excited about this horse. He keeps going and is training great. To win from out there, you’re several lengths the best. We might look at something open next for him.”
A maiden-breaker at Saratoga in the slop second out on July 28, Good Luck Gus won the New York Breeders’ Futurity two starts later before running second to Ostrolenka in the Sleepy Hollow at Belmont. Blinkers added for his last four starts have helped overcome some greenness, which led him to hop tire tracks in his first two outings. From three wins and second in seven starts, Good Luck Gus has earned $330,059.
Bred by Fred W. Hertrich III and foaled on April 28, 2012 at Majestic View Farms in Gardiner, Good Luck Gus is one of two winners, and the only registered New York-bred foal, out of Tacticmove, a daughter of Deputy Minister out of multiple Grade 1 winner Strategic Maneuver who was unplaced in one start. The mare, who also is a half-sister to Group 3 turf winner Ishiguru (Ireland) and Grade 2 dirt route winner Cat Fighter, was purchased by Hertrich at the 2011 Keeneland November sale for $35,000 and has since been resold.