Thin White Duke adds Aspirant to growing resume

Tuesday, October 6th, 2020

Thin White Duke (outside) rolls past Our Man Mike to win Tuesday’s $120,438 Aspirant Stakes at Finger Lakes. SV Photography.

By Tom Law

Phil Gleaves hopped off his bicycle one morning outside his barn at the Oklahoma Training Track late in the recent Saratoga Race Course meeting, greeted a visitor looking for horses to include in the Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour featuring horsemen with smallish-sized strings and summed up his 2020 season in upstate New York.

“Things are going well, we’ve had a good meet,” Gleaves said. “The horses are running well. We haven’t found the hallowed winner’s circle yet. I say yet because we’ll get there. I’m fairly confident in that.”

Two days later Thin White Duke, a gelding by Dominus that Gleaves bred and owned in partnership, took the yet off the table when he overcame trouble to win the Funny Cide Stakes. A month later he handled another adventurous journey and became a two-time stakes winner with a professional score in the $120,438 Aspirant at Finger Lakes.

Thin White Duke, the lone winner in the field of six for the 6-furlong Aspirant, won by three-quarters of a length under Kevin Navarro over Our Man Mike to improve to 2-2-2 in six starts. Owned by Gleaves, former Daily Racing Form Editor Steve Crist, Ken deRegt and Bryan Hilliard, Thin White Duke won in 1:13.13.

Thin White Duke raced fourth early in the Aspirant while first-time starter Silverado Trail, It’s Gravy and Bourbon Brown scrimmaged through the opening quarter-mile in :23.20. Around the turn It’s Gravy and Reylu Gutierrez, bidding to make it 3-for-3 in stakes at Finger Lakes this season, took a short lead from Silverado Trail and Bourbon Brown while Our Man Mike launched a bid from fifth.

Those four stacked up through the half in :46.75, almost 2 lengths ahead of Thin White Duke straightening into the lane. Navarro angled Thin White Duke out in midstretch and cut into what turned into a 2 ½-length deficit to Our Man Mike with a furlong to run. Thin White Duke responded to Navarro’s urging in the lane and he won going away.

“Exciting race,” Gleaves said. “We had hoped for a trip much like the Funny Cide where we’d sit off the speed. The first quarter wasn’t that rapid. Our horse was so sharp so our jockey kind of found himself kind of in the middle of those three horses going the first quarter. He was able to ease him back and when he did that those top two kind of spurted away turning for home.

“I had some anxiety at that point but then he leveled off, his stride got longer and he was gobbling up the ground late and won with his ears pricked.”

Our Man Mike, coming off a fourth in his lone start in an Aug. 30 state-bred maiden special weight at Saratoga, finished 1 1/4 lengths ahead of It’s Gravy. Bourbon Brown checked in fourth, 17 ¼ lengths behind the winner.

Named for one of the stage personas of the late rock and roll icon David Bowie, Thin White Duke earned $72,263 for the win and pushed his bankroll to $192,283.

Gleaves entered Thin White Duke in last week’s Bertram F. Bongard at Belmont Park but opted for the Aspirant, originally written for Monday to share the card with the Lady Finger Stakes but pushed to Tuesday when it didn’t fill.

“We kept him eligible for both the Finger Lakes races, the Aspirant and the Futurity (Oct. 25),” Gleaves said. “We had done that. Our game plan was to go in the Bongard. We entered for the Bongard and then we noticed the Aspirant didn’t fill when it was first up for Monday. So then we realized it was going to be a short field. When I called up there they said it would be a short field so we said we’re at least going to enter and make a decision. After we entered and saw it was a lesser field than the Bongard it made sense to go up there, to find out if he was going to like the track and have the option to go back up for the Futurity.”

Foaled at McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds in Saratoga Springs, Thin White Duke added a chapter to the story for Gleaves. He bred him out of the unraced Distorted Humor mare Aberdeen Alley, who also produced Saratoga stakes winner Miami Cat, stakes-placed winners I Ain’t Gonna Lie and Now Is and winners Sweet Summer Sweet and Yes And Yes.

Aberdeen Alley was euthanized in 2019 after suffering an injury and unfortunately Gleaves lost Now Is to a heart attack while training last winter. The last foal produced by Aberdeen Alley, a filly by Freud born in March 2019 and named Our Abbey Road, was also euthanized following complications from hernia surgery in late August.

“She was tremendous,” Gleaves said. “Every foal out of her that has raced has won. Thin White Duke is the last of the line.”

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