Strapping Groom, sent off as the 8-5 second choice in the $100,000 Gravesend Handicap at Aqueduct on Saturday, made his odds look like a gift to his backers.
Ridden by Junior Alvarado, Strapping Groom rolled to a 6 ½-length victory over odds-on favorite Palace to win the 55th running of the six-furlong fixture in 1:09.74.
“As soon as Abra passed me, I just kept going without really chasing him, not wanting a fight,” said Alvarado. “Turning for home, I asked him, and didn’t think I’d get beat with the way that he kicked in at the end. It worked out pretty good; he was 100 percent on his game today.”
Winner of last year’s Forego (G1) at Saratoga, Strapping Groom was winless in two starts following that Grade 1 score in August. The victory was the fourth in nine starts this year for Strapping Groom, who was claimed for $35,000 in May by trainer David Jacobson and Drawing Away Stable. The 6-year-old son of Johannesburg went on to win the Lion Cavern overnight stakes at Belmont Park and the Kid Russell at Saratoga for his new connections before pulling a 15-1 upset in the Forego. He was then third in the Grade 1 Vosburgh Invitational and fourth in the Grade 3 Bold Ruler Handicap, both at Belmont, before finishing second behind Palace in the Grade 3 Fall Highweight Handicap on Nov. 28 at the Big A.
“If he’s not quite back to that Forego race, he’s definitely headed in that direction,” said Jacobson. “He came out of the Fall Highweight like a million dollars and has been getting better and better. He had a quarter-crack [after the Forego] we were working on. I was being a little aggressive running him, and he still ran well. That’s all grown out now and it’s a thing of the past.”
Strapping Groom returned $5.40 for a $2 win bet and earned $60,000. Overall, he is 9-6-2 from 26 starts with a bankroll of $796,713.
NYRA photo by Labozetta