Mr. and Mrs. Hermen Greenberg’s Rutledge Farm’s Virginia-bred Researcher charged from off the pace to win the $108,400 Queens County Handicap (G3) by a half-length on Saturday at Aqueduct and earn his fourth consecutive victory. Researcher was bred by the Virginia Tech Foundation’s M.A.R.E. Center in Middleburg.

The four-year-old Two Smart gelding won an allowance/optional claiming race at Laurel Park on September 10 and the HBPA Governor’s Cup Handicap at Charles Town Races on October 17. Researcher made his graded stakes debut in the Queen’s County off a win in the Mountaineer Mile Handicap at Mountaineer Race Track on November 8 for trainer Jeff Runco.

Brilliant Son set the pace in the 1 3/16-mile race on Aqueduct’s inner dirt track and built a three-length advantage on the backstretch. Temporary Saint was Brilliant Son’s closest pursuer in the five-horse field while Researcher settled into third.

Turning for home, Researcher seized command and held off determined Brilliant Son to prevail in 1:55.87 on a track rated as fast.

Dry Martini, sent off as the 1.75-to-1 favorite, closed ground late to take third, 5 ½ lengths behind runner-up Brilliant Son.

The Queen’s County was the first graded stakes victory for both Researcher and Runco, who arrived at Aqueduct 30 minutes before the race due to a flight delay.

“The horse is on a roll,” Runco said. “This is pretty much how we thought the race would go. [We] figured the two horses [Brilliant Son and Temporary Saint] would go out in front. I said to [Mike] Luzzi, ‘Sit tight, just wait, save something for the end.’ ”

Researcher improved to eight wins in 14 starts and boosted his earnings to $289,870. He is the first stakes winner out of the Apalachee mare Wild Magnolia.

(Edited from NYRA Photo/Adam Coglainese)