OZONE PARK, N.Y. — After dropping back to seventh place in a field of 10, the Phipps Stables' Fire Away and Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez found a seam between the front runners inside the 1/16 pole and got home to win Aqueduct's Artie Schiller Stakes as the third choice at odds of 4 to 1 on Nov. 18.
The win for the home-bred son of War Front from the Unbridled mare Salute, kept the five-year-old horse's record at the Big A perfect at 3-for-3.
Hall of Fame trainer Claude R. (Shug) McGaughey, III and assistant trainer seem Robbie Medina seem to have found the key to Fire Away by starting him on Aqueduct's newly installed turf course and running him around two turns.
"He had won here off of a layoff and after last year, we thought he was a horse that wanted to run really long. But every time we got going with him, we had to ease up and we just never got into a good rhythm with him," said Medina.
"But since Saratoga, we haven't had to miss anything with him. After he ran his last race at Belmont going long, Shug just said, 'Let's cut him back and make him finish.'"
Added Velazquez: "The grass is a little softer on this turf course and I think he likes that. There some give [to] the ground and he responded well to it. Shug and I talked about the distance before the race. He ran at a mile and three-eighths at Saratoga where he finished third and so they cut him back in his next start and he hung a little bit.
“At Belmont, he ran at a mile and sometimes horses need one race to get back into things. Today, he responded kicking away at the end," the rider concluded.
Fire Away ran the mile in 1:35.32 over a firm course to beat Monster Bea and “Jersey Joe” Bravo by one length at odds of nearly 20 to 1. Hollywood Hidewaway and Luis Saez were third at 13 to 1.
Fire Away's win was worth $10.60 to his $2 backers. The Fire Away – Monster Bea $2 exacta paid $188.00.
229 Racing Days Set For 2018 in New York
That's the total for racing at Aqueduct, Belmont Park and Saratoga.
Here's the lineup:
Now through April 22: Racing at Aqueduct Thursdays through Sundays in January and February with the addition of Mondays Jan. 1(New Year's Day), Jan. 15 (Martin Luther King Day) and February 19 (President's Day).
In March at the Big A, racing goes on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
In April, the Big A will be dark
Sunday, April 1 (Easter). Racing resumes Friday, April 6, Saturday, April 7 and Sunday, April 8.
The Aqueduct Winter Finale will be Wednesday, April 11 through Sunday, April 15 and Wednesday, April 16 through Sunday April 22.
Belmont's Spring meeting starts Friday, April 27. Then racing is carded Thursday through Sunday for the month of May with additional live cards offered on Wednesday, May 16 and Memorial Day, May 28.
After a three-day racing weekend on June 1 through 3, the Belmont Racing Festival is on the calendar for Thursday, June 7 through the $1.5 million, Grade 1 Belmont Stakes that completes the 2018 Triple Crown on Saturday, June 9.
Following the Belmont and its all-star supporting races, they'll go postward Wednesdays through Sundays until July 15.
Historic Saratoga opens Friday, July 20 and runs through Labor Day, Sept. 3 with racing every day but Tuesday.
The highlights of one of the nation's oldest continuing sporting events will be the 91st running of the Whitney Handicap on Aug. 4and the 149th running of the Grade 1 Travers on Aug. 25.
The 36-day Belmont Fall meeting opens on Friday, Sept. 7 and continues through the month with Mondays and Tuesdays dark.
October will offer live cards Wednesday through Sunday with Monday, Oct. 8 racing on Columbus Day and a dark day Oct. 10. “Big Sandy's” last day of live racing is Sunday, Oct. 28.
Aqueduct's 38-day Fall meeting opens with a three-day weekend on Friday, Nov. 2.
From there on through the month it will be racing Wednesday through Sunday.
The December dates are 1 and 2, 7 through 9, 13 through 16, 20 through 23 and 28 through New Year's Eve.
The NYRA 2018 Racing Calendar will be sold at the Big A Dec. 30, 2017 through Jan. 1, 2018. The always popular calendar will feature all of Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga's graded stakes dates.
Monmouth To Hold 52 Days of Racing
Fans of Jersey Shore Thoroughbred racing will he treated to 52 live racing dates at Monmouth Park starting Saturday, May 5.
Those wanting to watch and wager on the Kentucky Derby will be accommodated on Monmouth's opening day.
Following the opening, racing will be offered at the Oceanport oval on Saturdays and Sundays during May and June with an additional day of action on Memorial Day, May 28.
Wednesday, July 4 will be offered. From there on, the Thoroughbreds will run Saturday, July 7 and Sunday, July 8. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays will be active on Route 33 through July.
Sunday, July 29 has its own color code on the Monmouth calendar. It's the day of the million dollar, Grade 1 Haskell, the first Grade 1 for the 3-year-olds following the Triple Crown.
The Longchamp gates will open in August on Thursdays through Sundays with Thursday, Aug. 30 dark.
September dates at Monmouth will be Labor Day weekend (Sept. 1, 2 and 3) and Sept. 8 and 9.
The New Jersey Racing Commission has approved Friday night and Saturday night racing for Thoroughbreds on the inner turf course at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford for Sept. 14, 15, 21, 22, 28 and 29.
Jose Ortiz Taking Time Off For Surgery
Jose Ortiz, who went into Nov. 18’s action as North America's leading jockey and who is a major contender for the Eclipse Award, will miss six weeks of riding starting Dec. 5.
According to his agent Jim Riccio, Jr., Ortiz will undergo 'minor' surgery to “clean up” an injury sustained when his mount went down in a race at Belmont Park on Sept.r 20.
Although he is not riding with pain, the younger of the Ortiz brothers who are both always or near the top of the New York Racing Association standings in wins and purse money, is following doctors' orders in scheduling the surgery.
Riccio reports his rider has targeted late January for his return with the $16 million Pegasus World Cup on Jan. 27 as a major target.
Ortiz will continue to ride a full schedule until he steps down for the operation. He has calls on Rubilinda in Del Mar's Grade 1 Matriarch on Nov. 26 and Seymourdini in Aqueduct's Cigar Mile on Dec. 2.
Going into Saturday's racing. Ortiz was atop the jockey's purse money leader board with earnings of $26.267 million and is in third place in races won with 252. His older brother, Irad, leads the races won column with 274.
When asked about Jose Ortiz stepping down in early December, Riccio said, “We think we've already done enough to win the Eclipse.”
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