By Rab Hagin
Ten weeks after scoring her first stakes victory in Aqueduct’s $100,600 East View at a mile in the mud, ESPRESSO SHOT ($262,975) won Aqueduct’s listed $257,375 Busher Stakes for nine open 3-year-old fillies going a mile on fast dirt, as the MISSION IMPAZIBLE sophomore sensation registered an impressive last-to-first victory. The March 9 win earned her 50 points towards qualifying for Churchill Downs’ Grade 1 $1.25-million Longines Kentucky Oaks on May 3, which the managing partner for one of Espresso Shot’s owners, Daniel Zanatta of NY Final Furlong Racing Stable, said was a definite goal.
“It’s pretty special,” enthused Zanatta. “My dream is to win the Kentucky Oaks with a New York-bred filly, and we’re on our way. We were all in the winner’s circle jumping up and down, and to have her come wide and be six or seven lengths off of it, it was the best way to win a stakes race.”
Facing two other Aqueduct stakes winners – one a graded winner – plus a Laurel stakes winner and an unbeaten favorite among her eight rivals, Espresso Shot relied on her relentless late run, rallying widest of all out of the turn and overtaking her highly-touted competitors in the second half-mile. It was her third victory in six starts, which includes a runner-up effort in a six-furlong Aqueduct stakes in November and a placing on Saratoga turf in her 2-year-old debut. In addition to NY Final Furlong Racing Stable, Espresso Shot’s other owners are Maspeth Stables and Parkland Thoroughbreds.
Winning jockey Eric Cancel, who has been on board for Espresso Shot’s last three starts, had been upbeat going into the Busher: “I was very confident,” revealed Cancel. “She’s a very talented filly.”
Espresso Shot’s win boosted Mission Impazible’s progeny earnings to over $5.6-million from three crops to race, with his second crop out-earning his first (although Mission Impazible was the Northeast’s leading first-crop sire of 2016), and his third crop (with Espresso Shot) appearing better than his second.
Other recent winners to represent Mission Impazible at Aqueduct were his sons ROGUE NATION on February 17 and BOURBON DID IT on February 1 – both favorites. Rogue Nation, who races for E.V. Racing Stable and trainer Rudy R. Rodriguez, scored his third Aqueduct victory at three different distances in six starts, swinging four-wide to tally at a mile. Bourbon Did It, who races for Michael Dubb, Bethlehem Stables LLC, Michael Imperio and David Simon, broke his maiden by almost two lengths drawing away at odds-on among eight going six furlongs.
Mission Impazible’s other decisively-winning sons in 2019 are newly-minted 3-year-old WHO’S DRIVING, who scored his second open-margin victory in his third start by winning his 2019 debut on January 14 at Parx Racing, and CUMBER, who in three starts at Mahoning Valley in Ohio is unbeaten in 2019. Who’s Driving, racing for new owners Pat and Ron Scorese, was the youngest (foaled April 29, 2016) in his six-furlong contest and stumbled while breaking from the outside post but still beat the odds-on runner-up by more than two lengths at equal weights. Cumber, an Oklahoma-bred who had broken his maiden in 2018 at Oaklawn Park, has beaten 26 rivals while winning three races by multiple open margins totaling 12 lengths during an eight-week span. Racing at Mahoning Valley for Gerald Silver, Cumber scored by 3½ lengths going 5½ furlongs against 10 on January 9, by 6½ lengths going six furlongs as the favored co-topweight against 11 on January 28, and by two lengths at 1-to-2 going 5½ furlongs on March 6.