Thin White Duke up in time to win Lucky Coin

Friday, September 2nd, 2022

Thin White Duke (5) gets up in time to win Friday’s $150,000 Lucky Coin at Saratoga. Susie Raisher/NYRA Photo.

By Tom Law

Phil Gleaves watched Thin White Duke walk from the saddling stalls to the outer walking ring of the paddock before Friday’s $150,000 Lucky Coin Stakes and marveled at the gelding he bred, owns and used to train.

“Just like strutting into Madison Square Garden. Like him,” Gleaves said, pointing to a small white button on his lapel of the human Thin White Duke, the late rockstar David Bowie.

Thin White Duke continued his strut about 15 minutes later, into the winner’s circle after his late-running victory under John Velazquez in the 5 ½-furlong co-featured turf stakes on the final Friday card of the 2022 Saratoga meet.

Gleaves, an unabashed Bowie fan who owns Thin White Duke with Steve Crist, Ken deRegt and Bryan Hilliard, wore the pin when the New York-bred Dominus gelding finished a fast-closing third in the Grade 3 Troy Aug. 5. He figured why not sport it again.

“Second time wearing it,” Gleaves said, on his way to the Carmen M. Barrera Horsemen’s Lounge for champagne with his wife Amy. “Steve, the last time he came up with Ken he brought a bag of them. About 12 or so. I threw it on for the Troy and today I said, ‘I’m going to grab that pin again.’ She put it on me in the parking lot right over there and I had a good feeling.”

Gleaves trained Thin White Duke for his 2- and 3-year-old campaigns. The gelding won the Funny Cide Stakes at Saratoga and Aspirant Stakes at Finger Lakes at 2 before some physical issues limited his sophomore campaign. He made only three starts last year, finishing well back in each, before some time off.

Gleaves retired after last year’s Saratoga meet and turned to David Donk, another former assistant to the late Hall of Fame trainer Woody Stephens, to condition Thin White Duke and a few other horses he trained and/or owned in partnership. After finishing 10th in a dirt sprint in mid-March at Aqueduct, Thin White Duke has made seven straight starts on the grass with two wins, a second, a third and two fourths.

Thin White Duke’s last three races – all at 5 ½ furlongs on the turf at Saratoga – are arguably his three best.

“Obviously, he ran huge last time with a big Beyer number,” Donk said. “If he came close to that, he was going to be real tough today. I guess he did. I didn’t really look at the time.

“He just really improved and certainly appreciates sprinting. Johnny gave me a great ride. A lot of fun to win it for Phil, Steve, Ken and Bryan. I’m honored to have him.”

Velazquez, aboard two starts back in the runner-up effort in an open-company allowance eight days before the Troy, put Thin White Duke fourth early as 2-1 favorite The Critical Way set the pace just ahead of Proven Strategies and Dancing Buck.

Thin White Duke raced 3 1/2 lengths off The Critical Way’s opening quarter in :22.71 over the firm going and was still almost 2 lengths as Proven Strategies and Dancing Buck made a run at the leader turning for home. Dancing Buck came away with the lead just past the eight pole as The Critical Way and Proven Strategies retreated and Voodoo Zip and Joel Rosario made a run to daylight on the hedge.

Velazquez, who blamed himself for moving “a little too late,” stayed busy on Thin White Duke in the center of the course and edged past fellow New York-bred Dancing Buck just at the wire to win by a nose in 1:03.43. Fauci also made a late run from sixth early to finish three-quarters of a length back in third.

“I was waiting for Joel in the back. I’m thinking, ‘If he comes, I’ll go with him,’ ” said Velazquez, winning his 200th Saratoga stakes. “The other horse (The Critical Way) almost got loose. I was waiting for a horse behind me. I just told Dave, ‘Man, I was a little too patient waiting for Joel and he never showed up.’ We know he has a good kick, I was just hoping it was enough to catch up.”

Thin White Duke improved to 4-for-18 with three seconds and five thirds and boosted his bankroll to $426,501.

“One of the greatest riders of all time,” Donk said. “I’ve only been around two riders that ever criticize themselves when they win, and that’s Johnny and Ramon (Dominguez), so we’ll take those all the time. It wasn’t a big pace today. If you get there you get there. I’m just happy if they run well. I’ve been on the other side a lot, but that’s, that’s all we can ask.”

Foaled at McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds in Saratoga Springs, Thin White Duke is out of the unraced Distorted Humor mare Aberdeen Alley. She’s the dam of Saratoga stakes winner Miami Cat, stakes-placed winners I Aint’s Gonna Lie and Now Is and winners Dunnotarr, Fortythreeoeight N, Yes And Yes and Sweet Summer Sweet. Yes And Yes finished fifth in the Troy and is entered in Tuesday’s Woodford Reserve Da Hoss Stakes at Colonial Downs.

Aberdeen Alley was euthanized in 2019 after suffering an injury and Gleaves lost Now Is to a heart attack while training in 2021. 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.

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