Houston, trainer Wayne Lukas’ lightly raced mystery horse, made his 3-year-old debut Saturday with a 10 1/2-length victory in the $115,000 Bay Shore Stakes at Aqueduct.
Houston, who last raced in December, remained unbeaten in three races and impressed many who had been skeptical of claims by Lukas that he was perhaps the best horse he had ever trained.
The 3-year-old son of 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew broke slowly in the seven-furlong race and trailed Mr. Nickerson along the rail at the three-quarter pole. But, guided by Laffit Pincay, Houston took the lead with a half-mile to go and steadily pulled away from the six-horse field in the second of the major New York preps for Triple Crown contenders.
Mr. Nickerson, second in the March 11 Swift Stakes at Aqueduct, was second again, a neck ahead of outsider Wee Stark.
The victory was worth $69,000 to Houston’s owner, L.R. French Jr.
Houston won his first race last July at Aqueduct, then was idle until December with bucked shins. On Dec. 3, he won an allowance race at Hollywood Park and has been out West since, prompting some to speculate that the horse was unsound. That speculation ended Saturday as Houston emerged as a top challenger to early Kentucky Derby favorite Easy Goer.