Thin White Duke rocks to Harvey Pack win

Saturday, September 2nd, 2023

Thin White Duke flies down the stretch to win the 2023 Harvey Pack Stakes. Chelsea Durand/NYRA Photo

Fourth time’s the charm.

Thin White Duke, making his fourth start of the 2023 Saratoga Race Course season, rallied wide down the stretch to catch favorite Big Invasion in the final yards and win the $150,000 Harvey Pack Stakes by a neck Saturday.

The victory completed a busy month at the Spa for the 5-year-old Dominus gelding, bred by co-owner and former trainer Phil Gleaves. Now trained by Dave Donk, Thin White Duke finished fifth in an optional claimer July 26; 10 days later, he placed third in the Grade 3 Troy Stakes; 18 days after that, he checked in fourth in another optional claimer.

Undaunted, Thin White Duke went to the post 10 days later in the Harvey Pack, a race the dark bay won last year when it was known as the Lucky Coin Stakes. Sent off at 9-1 in a field of six, Thin White Duke took his customary spot in the back early as Dancing Buck showed early speed and completed the first quarter-mile in :22.42 and a half in :45.36. Our Shot sat just off the leader, followed by Big Invasion and Chess Master.

Thin White Duke was last of five after Mister Mmmmm was pulled up early, but went to work coming off the turn. Ahead, Big Invasion and Our Shot went after the leader with Big Invasion taking a slim lead in mid-stretch. To their outside, Jose Lezcano revved up Thin White Duke and the horse responded – switching to his right lead and reeling in the favorite to sweep past in the final three strides. Big Invasion, making his first start since Royal Ascot in June, held on for second with Our Shot a head back in third. Final time for 5 1/2 furlongs was 1:02.18.

“He broke pretty good and I sat behind the speed,” Lezcano said. “I’ve been watching his replays and he’s kind of a horse who likes to be outside, this is who he is. I let him go, relaxed in the back, and when I made my move, I go around and he gave me the kick – the kick I needed to win the race.”

Thin White Duke won for the sixth time in 29 starts – 10 at Saratoga – while pushing his career earnings to $682,605 for owners Gleaves, Steve Crist, Ken deRegt, Bryan Hilliard. Trained by Gleaves for his first two seasons, Thin White Duke broke his maiden in the 2020 Funny Cide Stakes at Saratoga and added the Aspirant at Finger Lakes that fall. In 2021, he lost all three starts. When Gleaves retired from training at the end of that year, the horse moved to Donk’s shedrow and he went 3-for-11 with victories in the Lucky Coin, two optional-claiming wins and a third (beaten a head and a neck by Golden Pal) in the Grade 3 Troy.

This year started in April and included seven defeats, but enough solid efforts to encourage Donk and the team. The win was the trainer’s second at the 2023 meet.

“It’s been a slow meet not having any live ones to lead over,” Donk said. “This horse likes it here and I thought his races earlier in the year were really good and I thought the course played to him more this week where you can close on it more than you could earlier in the meet. He’s done really well and I wasn’t afraid to run him back, he’s been kind of full of himself. I’m just happy that he ran so well and for Phil, Steve, Ken and Bryan. I know it means a lot to these guys that the race is named after Harvey. It was appropriate.”

Crist, a former racing columnist at the New York Times and head of the Daily Racing Form, called the win special thanks to a long relationship with Pack, a New York racing media personality for decades who died at age 94 in 2021.

“It’s tremendous,” Crist said. “The second we heard that this was the race they were going to name for Harvey and we had won it last year, I didn’t care what else we do this year I just wanted to be in the Harvey Pack and try to win it. I spent some time with his family before the race, you just can’t make this stuff up.

“When I was a cub reporter in the early ’80s, that’s when Harvey started with the replay show and he put me on. He was very helpful to a guy that was just getting his feet wet. He was a loyal friend the whole time that I was a working journalist. We became good friends. To win this, there’s some magic left in the world.”

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 Ain’t Gonna Lie and Now Is and winners Dunnotarr, Fortythreeoeight N, Yes And Yes and Sweet Summer Sweet. Aberdeen Alley was euthanized in 2019 after suffering an injury.

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