Tuesday, July 9, 2024

A crafty speed steer from Jordan Stratton perched Voukefalas in a pocket spot, from which he pounced to the lead and then lasted to the end of a 1:47.3 mile to win the $230,000 Graduate Pace at The Meadowlands on Saturday night (July 6).

Starting from post 6, Stratton floated off the wings with Voukefalas while a three-pronged charge barreled for the first turn. Ken Hanover, the 2-1 favorite, grabbed the point out of post 9 in the :26.3 sprint to the first quarter with No Control on his back. But Stratton had Voukefalas rolling on the rim through the turn and promptly planted himself on a brief lead entering the backstretch.

Once pocketed, Ken Hanover pulled off the pylons and retook control moving for a :54 half. All the while the backfield awaited someone to pull first over, and eventually Huntinthelastdolar made the move out of fourth and began a moderate advance through three-quarters in 1:21.2. Huntinthelastdolar’s bid was brief and he stalled on the turn for home, which gave Stratton clearance to angle outside with Voukefalas and send him into top gear. Voukefalas vaulted past Ken Hanover in the stretch and stayed strong as his competition closed in late stretch to notch the win by three-quarter lengths over No Control, who tipped to the center of the track and rallied for second. Act Fast came from near last for third and Sea Fire rallied off cover for fourth.

“He’s been really good these last couple of weeks going forward and charging at the wire,” winning driver Jordan Stratton said after the race. He’s really come back good as a 4-year-old and it helps racing 4-year-olds. The horse is a dream come true. He shows up every week. It’s been a lifelong dream to win a Grand Circuit race at The Meadowlands and tonight feels great. All the credit goes to the connections and the ownership.

“I was super confident in this whole series with him,” trainer Michael Russo said. “In his last two starts here, I thought he was the best each time. He didn’t get a clean trip either time. Going in I thought I could win, I thought I should win, but obviously I thought Ken Hanover was the best when the series started.”

Voukefalas, a 4-year-old stallion by Lazarus N out of the Cams Fortune mare Inittowinafortune, notched his fourth win on the season and his 11th victory from 28 starts. He’s now banked $733,010 for owner-breeder Michael Pagonas and paid $18.40 to win in his mild upset.