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AGGIE ENGINEER, SOLIS RUN OFF WITH FRIDAY FEATURE AT 7-1 ODDS
ARCADIA, Calif. (April 3, 2009) – Running around two turns for the first time in his sixth career start, 7-1 longshot Aggie Engineer and jockey Alex Solis ran off with Friday’s $56,800 optional claiming allowance feature to defeat Aitcho by 1 ¼ lengths while negotiating one mile over Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride surface in 1:36.44
Solis sent the gelded 4-year-old son of E Dubai to the front soon after the break, settled him into a cruising posture through moderate early fractions, and they comfortably resisted the late bid by third-choice Aitcho, who rallied from last in the field of seven.
Malt Magic finished another 1 ¼ lengths back in third while comebacking 7-5 favorite Elysium Fields, a leading Triple Crown candidate last year before going awry at 5-2 odds in the Florida Derby, had to settle for fourth without ever being a factor.
Trained by Paddy Gallagher for Texas-based owner/breeders Ward and Roberta Williford, Aggie Engineer paid $16.60, $7.20 and $5. Aitcho, a well-regarded 4-year-old from John Shirreffs’ barn with Mike Smith in the saddle, returned $4.40 and $3.20. Malt Magic, ridden by Garrett Gomez, paid $4.80 to show.
Before stretching out in distance, Aggie Engineer had been the beaten favorite while sprinting in his two previous starts after winning two of his first three races in a career that began at Santa Anita in February of last year. Solis has been aboard in each of his races.
Friday’s winning purse of $33,600 expanded the career earnings of Aggie Engineer to $107,420 from his record of 3-1-1 in six races.
An expected showdown between The Pamplemousse and Pioneerof the Nile in the 72nd running of the Grade I Santa Anita Derby is the centerpiece of an 11-race program on Saturday that includes three Grade II events among a total of five stakes races. First post is at 12 noon with the Santa Anita Derby to be contested as the sixth race with an approximate post of 2:45 p.m.