32-1 Heaven’s Runway foils former stablemate ‘Dude in Fall Highweight

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November 25th, 2016

When 4-5 favorite Stallwalkin’ Dude struck the front in midstretch of Thursday’s $200,000 Fall Highweight H. (G3), he appeared on the verge of toting 134 pounds to victory in the Thanksgiving feature. But then along came the 32-1 Heaven’s Runway, shouldering 11 fewer pounds, to collar him by a neck and fuel a $66.50 win mutuel.

A former stablemate of Stallwalkin’ Dude when with David Jacobson, Heaven’s Runway was claimed twice over the summer at Saratoga. Steve Asmussen haltered him for $50,000 out of a fourth-place finish July 30, and ran him back sprinting on the turf for $62,500.

Current trainer Rudy Rodriguez promptly snapped up Heaven’s Runway out of that runner-up effort. A late-running fourth in his debut for the barn, also on the lawn, he employed the turf-to-dirt angle successfully in a graded stakes breakthrough.

"When I claimed this horse, believe it or not, I claimed him for this race," Rodriguez said. "I knew he was going to be OK for this race and he didn't prove me wrong. It made the owners [Michael Dubb and Michael Imperio] happy today."

"I just followed instructions," winning rider Junior Alvarado said. "Rudy was very, very confident with this horse. In the paddock he told me he claimed this horse exactly for this race. I took his word because he's a very good trainer. He only told me, 'save ground, stay on the rail as long as you can. If you find a way inside then go for it if not tip out.'

"I just made sure to do exactly what he told me to do and it worked out. We got the trip and we got the win. I knew they were going to come back I just had to gauge if I would have enough kick in the end. There were some very nice horses in the race. I couldn't really get excited until we passed the wire."

Stallwalkin’ Dude was an honorable second, clear of Ready for Rye. Defending champion Green Gratto tired to fourth after chasing pacesetter The Great War, who faded to fifth of eight.

Heaven’s Runway clocked six furlongs in 1:10.19 on the fast track. His prior stakes victories came in the 2012 Fitz Dixon Jr. Memorial Juvenile at Presque Isle and 2015 Hockessin at Delaware, and he now sports a 41-6-4-7, $537,925 mark.

Also at the Big A, trainer Chad Brown had mixed results with favorites in the two undercard stakes.

In the $125,000 Gio Ponti, 3-2 favorite Catapult duly obliged with a stalk-and-pounce score at the expense of market rival Strike Midnight. Woodford Racing’s sophomore son of Kitten’s Joy negotiated 1 1/16 miles on the good turf in 1:44.75 to earn his first stakes victory.

"He likes to run and is happy the way he goes," winning rider Javier Castellano. "I didn't see much speed in the race, so I wanted to fall in position like he did today. I'm very proud. He's a pro; everything he does, he does the right way. He never gets tired, he always keeps going and carries speed well."

But in the $100,000 Furlough, Brown hotpot Eloquent Riddle couldn’t catch the loose-on-the-lead Yorkiepoo Princess, who covered six furlongs in 1:11.62. Under a heady ride by Irad Ortiz Jr., the 7-2 chance got away with a cozy trip and held sway by 2 3/4 lengths from the 1-5 Eloquent Riddle.

"She's just a really nice filly," said Ed Barker, who trains the juvenile filly for Danny Chen. "We didn't pay much money for her ($8,000 at OBS this April), but she's got so much talent. There's more to her too, I can tell you. She's just got so much talent and we hope we can go on to bigger and better things later on in the spring. For now, we're going to play it by ear. I'm elated that she won this race."


Heaven's Runway photo courtesy of NYRA/Coglianese Photography/Susie Raisher