Archive for the ‘Jockey Paco Lopez’ Category.

Ward’s Irish-bred filly Her World crushes the field in the $200K Tyro at Monmouth

OCEANPORT, N.J.—Wesley Ward’s Her World was much the best winning the $100,000 Tyro Stakes at Monmouth Park. The Irish-bred filly earned Black Type with her first start and stakes win.

Showing good speed outside to clear the field, she set the pace, shook free on the turn, drifted off the inside and pulled away in hand. Trust Our Journey chased between rivals early, chased inside on the turn and rallied on the rail in the lane. Roman Poet was reluctant to load, raced off the pace inside, drifted out near the quarter pole interfering with Vodka N Water, then rallied for third. Baytown Warrior chased inside, steadied entering the turn, rode the rail into the stretch and finished evenly.

Catch the Smoke was outrun early and closed belatedly in the three path. Baytown Frosty chased close three wide and tired. Forty Stripes was off slowly and outrun.

Under astute jockey Paco Lopez the daughter of Caravaggio out of Mundus Novus, by Unbridled’s Song lead gate-to-wire to win by 6 lengths. The 2-year-old filly won the five-furlong race on a firm turf track in a time of :56.62.

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“She is obviously a very nice filly. Wesley told me she’s the best filly he has now and maybe for many, many years at this stage of her career. She broke on top and was looking around a little, maybe trying to figure things out (in her first career start). She was very professional. I used her to get to the top right away because Wesley Ward told me she had that kind of speed. Sometimes you want to get out there second or third and relax but she wanted to go.

“I looked behind after a while for the other horses but no one was running at us. She was flying in the stretch. You have to be special to do something like this in your first start, a stakes race and a filly against boys. But Wesley was very confident. He told me he loves this filly and wants to take her to the Breeders’ Cup. Now that I have ridden her I know she can do it,” Lopez explained.

The gray filly was bred by Lynch Bages Ltd & Rhinestone B/Stock and is campaigned by Andrew Farm, Susan Molton, For The People Racing Stable LLC, and Windmill Manor Farm.

“Personally I was nervous going into the race, but I will tell you what, Wesley Ward had a lot of confidence in the horse and that’s why she ended up in this race against the boys. It’s not up to me, but there have been conversations about running her the first weekend at Keeneland. My ownership partnership is with Charlie O’Connor and John Morgan. After today, I would definitely tell you this is one of, if not my favorite horse, we own right now. I am thrilled with what I saw,” co-owner Dick Brodie of Andrew Farm excitedly remarked.

Conditioner Ward commented: “We’re excited, she did exactly what we thought she would. We don’t have to change much after watching that race moving forward. We’re going to bring her next to Keeneland, and then we plan on bringing her to the Breeders’ Cup. With what she showed today winning in a stakes race against colts who had experience, it’s encouraging. We’re going to skip right along and continue from this. I look forward to her next couple of starts but I also look forward to her being a three-year-old, and I think (co-owner) Dick Brodie and the rest of the owners have a special one with her.”

Her World paid $3.80, $3.20 and $3.00 for the win., Trust Our Journey paid $6.80, 4.80 for second and Baytown Warrior paid $10.80 for show. The WINNING EXACTA paid $28.60.

Catch the Smoke, Baytown Frosty, Forty Stripes, Vodka N Water complete the order of finish. A Dangerous Guy and Chi Town Lady Trainer scratches.

Vodka N Water raced off the rail, off the pace, clipped the heels of Roman Poet, stumbled and fell, then walked off. After a Stewards’ Inquiry into the incident, Roman Poet, was disqualified from third and placed last for interfering with Vodka N Water.

Founder Willing Winner In Tale Of The Cat

OCEANPORT, NJ – Jeff Drown and Don Rachel’s Founder overcame steadying hard at the start and rallied from the rear to prove a willing winner of Saturday’s $100,000 Tale Of The Cat Stakes at Monmouth Park.

Trained by Chad Brown and ridden by Paco Lopez, Founder won the 1 1/16-mile firm turf route by 1 1/4 lengths as the even-money favorite in the field of seven 3-year-olds.

Pacesetter It Can Be Done took second over Hot Blooded, while Eamonn headed It’s a Gamble for fourth.

King of Dreams and Fifty Sheas Ofgrey completed the order of finish.

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“I was trying to stay closer than I was because there was a lot of speed and I didn’t want to be too far back on this grass course,” Lopez said. “I was a little surprised at (It Can Be Done) and the speed of the race, but I knew my horse had a lot left and I waited to make my move when there was enough room. It was my first time riding the horse, and I know riding for Chad Brown, he likes to come from off the pace, so I wanted to wait as long as I could and the horse had a lot left to make the last run.”

Doubleoseven and Main Track Only entry Spun and Won scratched.

Founder’s win, his first in a stakes, improved his record to 7-2-1-1 with $139,522 earned. Drown and Rachel purchased the Upstart colt for $600,000 as an unraced juvenile.

“He’s not much on speed, but he has a good kick at the end,” said assistant trainer Luis Cabrera. “All Chad said before the race is to make sure he warms up good because he has plenty of ability.”

Founder returned $4.20 to win, $3 to place, and 42.60 to show. It Can Be Done brought back $4.40 to place and $3.20 to show. Hot Blooded paid $6.40 to show.

Vigilantes Way Finds Path To Winner’s Circle In Eatontown At Monmouth Park

Even after 11 career starts, Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey has been saying that the best is yet to come for Vigilantes Way.

Sunday’s Grade 3 Eatontown Stakes at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J. may be the start of that for the 4-year-old filly.

Perfectly positioned to chase soft early fractions by jockey Paco Lopez despite leaving from post position 12, Vigilantes Way showed an impressive closing kick to win the $150,000 G3 Eatontown Stakes by 2¼ lengths before a season-high crowd of 12,562 on Father’s Day.

It marked the first graded stakes victory for the Phipps Stable homebred, a daughter of Medaglia d’Oro out of Salute by Unbridled.

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“I thought Paco rode a good race,” said McGaughey. “He got her away from there from the outside and had her in good position. I knew she would finish. She had trained very well before she went down there. It was just a matter of whether she would take the shipping on a hot day like today. She obviously did. I’m very proud of her.”

Able to break alertly with Vigilantes Way, Lopez sat behind pacesetter Valletta through tepid fractions of :24.54, :48.70, 1:12.12, and 1:35.87 for the opening mile of the mile and a sixteenth race on a turf course that has been playing fast. Lopez asked his filly coming out of the final turn, and she responded in a big way, easily surging past Valletta, who held on for second. Crystal Cliffs and Counterparty Risk finished in a dead heat for third, another half-length back, in the full field of 12 fillies and mares 3 years old and up.

The winning time for the race was 1:41.90.

“Sometimes this horse has speed, sometimes not,” said Lopez. “The post position (12) is something I usually don’t like but today it worked to our advantage. I was able to get out there and get in a good position behind (Valletta). It set up nicely for us.

“Shug told me to do whatever I felt I needed to do. She is usually in the top three early and I knew she would finish. She has a strong kick. It looked like there was a lot of speed in the race but they went kind of slow so I was happy with the position I was in throughout the race. I didn’t have to make up a lot of ground.”

McGaughey was especially encouraged by Vigilantes Way’s prospects for the Eatontown Stakes off her last race, when she closed into slow fractions on the Preakness Day undercard at Pimlico, falling a half-length short to multiple-graded stakes winner Mean Mary.

“I thought her last race in Pimlico was a really good race because she kind of got jumbled up at the start and got out of position,” said McGaughey. “She only got beat a half-length by Mean Mary, a multiple-graded stakes winner. Now maybe we can go on and get her stretched out, maybe to a mile and an eighth. She’s handy. She might be able to get it. When that will be, I don’t know. But today I am very pleased with the way she ran and very proud of her.

“Getting a graded stakes win is important, especially for a filly with a pedigree like hers. It’s as good a pedigree as you are going to find. So now she’s a graded stakes winner. Hopefully, it might lead to something even better.”

Vigilantes Way returned $9.20 to win for her fifth lifetime victory in 12 starts. She has failed to hit the board only twice in her career.

Con Lima takes Honey Ryder, Well Defined wins Big Drama

Con Lima was much the best in the $75,000 Honey Ryder for 3-year-old fillies at Gulfstream Park on Saturday.

Con Lima paid $3.80 and posted a final time of 1:40.57 in the 1 1/16-mile race contested over turf rated good.

With Paco Lopez aboard, Con Lima broke alertly from the outside post in the nine-horse field, pressed Por Que No though a half-mile in 47.15 seconds, took over the lead on the stretch turn, and drew off to win by a decisive four lengths. Karakatsie came from a stalking position to finish second with Mischievous Dream hanging on to finish third.

The Texas-bred daughter of Commissioner is trained by Todd Pletcher.

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The $75,000 Big Drama for Florida-bred 3-year-olds and up lacked intrigue when half of the eight horses entered scratched.

There also was not a lot of drama after the 6-5 favorite Well Defined took over the lead soon after the start. He paid $4.20 for his 4 1/2-length victory over R Mercedes Boy, who pressed the winner the whole way in the seven-furlong dash on the main track. Old Chestnut was third at every call with Glory of Florida breaking last and never threatening.

The final time was 1:22.30

The 5-year-old gelding by With Distinction was ridden by Emisael Jaramillo.

He is trained by his owner Kathleen O’Connell.

Paco Lopez Wins 3,000th Thoroughbred Race

Paco LopezJockey Paco Lopez notched his 3,000th Thoroughbred win April 10 at Gulfstream Park, reaching the career milestone via the disqualification of the first-past-the-post finisher in the day’s second race.

After winning No. 2,999 aboard Our Little Devil ($5.20) in the opener, Lopez was awarded the 3,000th victory by the stewards, who placed Heart of God ($6) first in race 2. The 35-year-old journeyman then came right back to win race 3 aboard Eamonn ($5.60).

“It’s exciting to make the milestone with my agent Cory Moran, who was with me from the beginning. It’s also exciting to win my 3,000th race in South Florida, where I started,” Lopez said.

After riding quarter horses in his native Mexico from a young age, Lopez ventured to South Florida in 2006. Lopez rode his first winner on July 13, 2007, at Calder. He won 229 races and nearly $4 million in purse earnings on his way to winning the Eclipse Award as champion apprentice in his first full season in 2008.

Lopez, previously leading rider at Gulfstream Park West and multiple meets at Gulfstream Park and Monmouth Park, was joined in the winner’s circle for a presentation, joined by his wife Renata and two young sons.

The rider has won 89 career graded-stakes, topped by eight grade 1s, including the 2018 Twinspires.com Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) on Roy H .

‘He’s Like A Son To Me’: Agent Moran Reflects As Paco Lopez Approaches 3,000th Win

Popular and personable jockey Paco Lopez, an Eclipse Award winner and twice the leading rider during Gulfstream Park’s prestigious Championship Meet, is on the verge of reaching a career milestone.

Lopez, 35, captured the eighth-race finale aboard Kahiko ($5), his lone victory from six mounts, as live racing returned to Gulfstream Thursday. He enters Friday’s nine-race program (1 p.m. post time) with 2,998 career Thoroughbred wins according to Equibase statistics, which also noted one quarter horse win in 2009 at Hialeah. Lopez is named in six races Friday and 10 of 11 races Saturday.

“Just the thought of winning 3,000 races and being with him from the start is pretty phenomenal,” Lopez’s agent, Cory Moran, said. “We’ve been together through this and it’s been amazing.

“There’s riders that get to 3,000, but I just think it’s amazing we did it together. I’m grateful and blessed through this journey,” he added. “The journey has had its ups and downs but Paco’s a good guy and a good rider, and I think we appreciate each other.”

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Lopez is one of six children that grew up in poverty in Veracruz, Mexico, leaving home at age 12 to live with one of his sisters. He was shining shoes and working in a car wash for $30 a week when a customer offered him a ranch job. Soon he was riding in quarter horse races at bush tracks with incredible success, including winning all 13 races over a single weekend.

In 2006, Lopez relocated to South Florida to further his dream of becoming a jockey, working on a ranch in West Palm Beach and riding unsanctioned quarter horse races. He began exercising Thoroughbreds at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach County, and launched his professional career in June 2007 at the former Calder Race Course.

“Since the first time I met him, I just thought there was something special in him. He just had those hungry eyes,” Moran said. “He was like a little boy standing there. Bill White introduced me to him. He was the leading trainer at the time and he loved him.

“He introduced us and I decided to take him the day I met him,” he added. “It’s been a constant win machine from that day. He’s been like a whirlwind, and it’s not slowing down. He’s done a lot of remarkable things.”

Lopez rode his first winner July 13, 2007, at Calder and finished with 20 for the calendar year. He won 229 races, nearly $4 million in purse earnings, a Calder meet title and the Eclipse Award as champion apprentice in his first full season of 2008.

Overall, Lopez has won 200 or more races nine times ranked in the top 10 in North America in wins five times, including third in 2019 with a career-best 283. That year he also reached a personal high of $10.9 million in purses earned.

Lopez won back-to-back Championship Meet riding titles in 2010 and 2011, and is one of only four jockeys (Javier Castellano, Irad Ortiz Jr., Luis Saez) to win 100 or more races at Gulfstream’s elite winter stand. He also won the 2019 Gulfstream Park West crown and owns 11 riding championships in New Jersey, eight of them at Monmouth Park where he spends the summer and early fall.

“In the early years, when he was having success at Monmouth and he won the Championship Meet twice, there were other agents trying to get him. But, Paco stayed loyal,” Moran said. “He believed in me and I believed in him. There’s been riders that have been available and I don’t even call them. He’s such a good rider. I don’t even think about it.”

Three times in his career, Lopez has won seven races on a single card. He did it twice in 2014 at Monmouth and again March 21, 2020, at Gulfstream, each time sharing the track record. Lopez earned his 2,000th career win Dec. 4, 2016 at Gulfstream.

Overall, Lopez has won 89 career graded-stakes, eight of them Grade 1, including his first with South Florida-based Itsmyluckyday in the 2014 Woodward as well as the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Sprint aboard Roy H. Last winter, he piloted Swiss Skydiver to victory in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2); Swiss Skydiver would go on to beat males in the Preakness Stakes (G1) and be named champion 3-year-old filly.

“I’ve seen riders win seven [races] in a day here and there, but he’s done it three times,” Moran said. “We’ve just had phenomenal success. He won a Breeders’ Cup. He’s won so many stakes from coast to coast. It’s been like a whirlwind with him and his success.

“I’m just very fortunate to run into a rider like that and he turned out to be that way,” he added. “I’ve been an agent for a long time and I’ve had leading riders and stuff like that, but this is a long run with Paco. He’s like family. He’s like a son to me. It’s been a good run.”

Phantom Currency Takes Mac Diarmida, Antoinette Shines

Goldencents was a precocious horse who flourished in middle distances on dirt and synthetic, taking the Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes (G3) a 2 before in subsequent years adding the Santa Anita Derby (G1) and two runnings of the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1).

His son Phantom Currency needed more time and longer races to get a groove, not racing in stakes until his 4-year-old season. Now 5 and racing on turf, he has stepped up his game even further, notching his first black-type victory Feb. 27 with a three-quarter of a length victory over Tide of the Sea in the $200,000 Mac Diarmida Stakes (G2T) at Gulfstream Park.

As he had in a previous win in a Jan. 13 allowance optional claiming race at Gulfstream, Susan and Jim Hill’s Phantom Currency took charge early on Saturday, which proved key in his mild upset of favored Tide of the Sea, frontrunning winner of the William L. McKnight Stakes (G3T). Phantom Currency was able to gain his preferred running position up front, while the former grew rank when the pace slowed passing the grandstand for the first time.

The duo then raced 1-2 virtually from start to finish in the 1 3/8-mile turf contest, and though Phantom Currency was headed midway down the backstretch, jockey Paco Lopez had enough to turn back Tide of the Sea and jockey Tyler Gaffalione. The winner, who carried 120 pounds, four less than the favorite, raced the distance in 2:13.84 on firm turf following splits of :49.08, 1:14.62 and 1:38.40.

“He wanted to run off a little bit the first quarter,” said Lopez. “The second quarter I got a hold of him and he got comfortable. I was on the rail and I waited. (Tide of the Sea) passed me a little bit but I was confident I had a lot of horse and in the stretch he got away from them.”

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Moon Over Miami rallied for third, edging fourth-place Temple, who hung after making a menacing bid in early stretch. Sir Sahib, Admission Office, Basha, and Aquaphobia completed the field of eight.

Winning trainer Brian Lynch, who also started Admission Office, said he was pleased to see Phantom Currency setting the pace.

“I’m very proud of him. He’s been an overachiever, this horse,” Lynch said. “He obviously likes this track and he’s very dangerous when he’s left alone.”

Antoinette Kicks Off Godolphin Roll
In other graded turf action at Gulfstream Saturday, Antoinette led from start to finish in the $125,000 The Very One Stakes (G3T) under Jose Ortiz.

The 4-year-old daughter of Hard Spun was part of a banner Saturday afternoon in the U.S. for owner/breeder Godolphin, who also won the Southwest Stakes (G3) with Essential Quality and the Razorback Handicap (G3) with Mystic Guide, both at Oaklawn Park.

While those horses used off-the-pace tactics to prevail, Antoinette used her speed to steal her race. She set splits of :23.98, :49.11 and 1:13.24 in the 1 3/16-mile turf race and quickened away from the opposition in the final stages of the race. She posted her fourth quarter in :23.43 to complete a mile in 1:36.67 and then ran her closing three-sixteenths in :17.03 for a final time of 1:53.70.

Belle Laura, third early, outfinished pace-chasing Sister Hanan by a neck to grab the runner-up spot. Tuned, War Like Goddess, Kalifornia Queen, Lovely Luvy, Bacchanalia, and Heavenly Curlin followed them across the wire in the field of nine.

Bred in Kentucky by Godolphin and trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, Antoinette paid $9.20 as the slight favorite. She is one of two winners from the group 2-winning Elusive Quality mare Shuruq, who also produced the multiple stakes-placed Javanica (Medaglia d’Oro ). Javanica, second in the Jimmy Durante Stakes (G3T) last year, was also runner-up vs. males this winter in the El Camino Real Derby in California.

Shuruq has an unnamed 2-year-old Medaglia d’Oro filly and an unnamed yearling colt by Uncle Mo .

Antoinette was a stakes winner at 2 and 3 that also picked up top-level stakes placings last year in the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) and Belmont Oaks Invitational Stakes (G1T).

Con Lima Never Looks Back Winning Ginger Brew At Gulfstream

Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Joseph Graffeo, Eric Nikolaus Del Toro and Troy Johnson’s Con Lima continued to show her affinity for the turf with a front-running triumph in Saturday’s $75,000 Ginger Brew at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Fla.

The one-mile Ginger Brew for 3-year-old fillies was the fourth of five stakes worth $400,000 in purses on an 11-race program highlighted by Mutasaabeq’s victory in the $100,000 Mucho Macho Man for 3-year-olds, the start of Gulfstream’s road to the March 28 Florida Derby (G1).

It was the first career stakes victory for Con Lima ($6.20), a daughter of Commissioner who finished second in back-to-back stakes taken off the turf last fall – the P.G. Johnson at Saratoga and Our Dear Peggy at Gulfstream. The winning time was 1:35.23 over a firm turf course.

“I think she’s a quality filly that handles both surfaces, but definitely seems to have found her home especially on the Gulfstream turf course here,” winning trainer Todd Pletcher said. “She’s got good natural speed and it played to her strengths today.”

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A similar gate-to-wire winner in her grass debut going one mile on the Gulfstream turf Dec. 12, Con Lima was once again eager for the lead in the Ginger Brew under jockey Paco Lopez, setting fractions of 23.95 seconds for the first quarter-mile and 47.55 for the half, pressed to her outside by Karakatsie with Inthewinnerscircle rating inside.

Karakatsie moved within a half-length on the turn but Con Lima remained in control and began to separate from the field once straightened for home, running six furlongs in 1:11.45 and drawing clear by 3 ¼ lengths. Honey Pants, the 3-2 favorite, edged Designer Ready for second while I Get It, who got squeezed far back early, rallied late to get up for fourth, snapping her three-race win streak. Inthewinnerscircle, Karakatsie, Viking Queen and Sweet Pearl completed the order of finish.

“Todd told me to judge the race, if she was keen to go or if we needed to sit behind, to go with her,” Lopez said. “She broke well and was a little strong. I had to hold her a little bit, but no one pressured us. I couldn’t believe it, so I let her go and my filly finished very well.”

Con Lima now has two wins and two seconds in four starts since joining Pletcher’s string last summer. Pletcher had three wins on the day, including Mutasaabeq in the Mucho Macho Man and 3-year-old maiden Winfromwithin in Race 8.

“We handle her carefully. She’s got a lot of energy and we try to keep it channeled in the right direction,” Pletcher said of Con Lima. “She was actually very good in the paddock today. We stayed inside and stayed with the pony. She warmed up really nice, was good in the gate and broke alertly, and kind of towed Paco around there. He had a tougher time getting her back to the winner’s circle than he did around the track.”

Largent Takes Advantage of Fast Pace in Ft. Lauderdale

It can never be said that Largent, the equine athlete, was rushed into graded turf stakes company by trainer Todd Pletcher.

The gelded 4-year-old son of Into Mischief won his March 10, 2019, debut and then spent his next four starts collecting two wins and two seconds in allowance-level races.

This summer, after a four-month break, Pletcher finally tried Largent in a stakes, but that was a trio of two stakes for Virginia-breds (which he won) and the Lure Stakes for horses who had not won a graded stakes (where he was second).

It was after the namesake of famed Seattle Seahawks receiver Steve Largent won the Oct. 9 Bert Allen Stakes for Virginia-breds as a 1-20 favorite that Pletcher decided to tackle the graded stakes runners in the deep end of the pool. He entered Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Twin Creeks Racing Stables’ Largent in the $200,000 Ft. Lauderdale Stakes (G2T) at Gulfstream Park along with a more accomplished stablemate from a different ownership group in Halladay.

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“He’s always loved Gulfstream. He’s always run well here,” Pletcher said. “He’s been training great. It was the right time to see if he could step up into a big spot.”

Largent was indeed in the right spot at the right time as he benefited most from a brutal pace carved out by Halladay Dec. 12 in the Ft. Lauderdale and rallied from seventh to roll to a two-length victory over Doswell. The 1 1/8-mile test is considered a main steppingstone to the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational Stakes (G1T) Jan. 23 at Gulfstream.

“It was a very salty field,” Pletcher said. “I think he ran well enough to earn a spot in the Pegasus.”

For Largent, the Ft. Lauderdale was his first race beyond 1 1/16 miles, and though he was sent off at 16-1 odds ($35.80), he surely handled it in a manner that bodes well for his chances of stretching out to 1 3/16 miles in the Pegasus.

“He’s hinted he wanted more ground in his last few races. Between his pedigree and adaptable running style, we don’t feel he has distance limitations,” said Aron Wellman, the founder and president of Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners. “We conservatively managed him over the course of his career, some of it forced, some of it by design, but the time had come for an acid test, and he passed it. It’s a credit to Todd. It’s a pleasure to be associated with a horse like this who always tries, and I’m very happy for our Eclipse partners and Steve Davidson and Randy Gullatt of Twin Creeks. Now that he’s a gelding, longevity is the name of the game.”

Largent has six wins and three seconds in nine starts with earnings of $314,470. The son of the Unbridled mare Life in Seattle (hence the name Largent) was bred by Lazy Lane Farms and was brought for $460,000 from the Warrendale Sales consignment at the 2017 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

He is the first graded stakes winner from his dam’s eight foals to race.

The Ft. Lauderdale had no shortage of speedsters among the field of 10, and the early duel between the top two choices played out as perfectly for Largent as an unguarded post pattern.

In the FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile Presented by PDJF (G1T), Harrell Ventures’ Halladay and Factor This were 1-2 after a half-mile in :46.97 and finished no better than sixth. They reprised those roles in the Ft. Lauderdale with 3-1 second choice Halladay leading 2-1 favorite Factor This by a length after an opening quarter-mile in :23.22 on a turf course labeled good. Halladay maintained that lead to the half-mile pole but had to run faster in the second quarter (:23.12) than he did in the first quarter.

After six furlongs in 1:09.62, the pace caught up with the leaders as Phipps Stable’s Breaking the Rules loomed a major threat from the four path.

Yet outside of him, jockey Paco Lopez had Largent moving fastest of all, and he powered past his rivals to grab a narrow lead at the eighth pole and draw clear in 1:46.16.

“Paco rode him exceptionally well,” Wellman said. “The turn of foot was explosive.”

Joseph Allen’s Doswell, a Giant’s Causeway gelding who saved ground in fourth much of the way, moved up along the rail in the stretch to take second at 15-1 odds for trainer Barclay Tagg by a nose over the Shug McGaughey-trained Breaking the Rules, a son of War Front .

Halladay faded to seventh, with Factor This eighth.

“We’ll assess how (Halladay) comes out of it,” Pletcher said about Halladay’s chances of returning in the Pegasus. “We’ll get them home and evaluate both of them, but we’ll just kind of play it by ear with Halladay. Unfortunately for Halladay, there was so much pace in today’s race. We didn’t want to take away his weapon, but at the same time he was probably doing a little too much early on.”

Largent Helps Pletcher Bag Fourth Win Of Day In Ft. Lauderdale – Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Twin Creeks Racing Stables’ Largent put an exclamation point on a four-win afternoon for trainer Todd Pletcher, punching his ticket to next month’s $1-million Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) with a come-from-behind victory in Saturday’s $200,000 Fort Lauderdale (G2) at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Fla.

The 64th running of the 1 1/8-mile Fort Lauderdale for 3-year-olds and up on the grass was the headliner on an 11-race program featuring five stakes, four graded, worth $575,000 in purses including the $100,000 Harlan’s Holiday (G3), a prep for the $3 million Pegasus World Cup (G1) Jan. 23, won by Tax.

With Paco Lopez aboard for the first time, Largent ($35.80) swept to the lead on the far outside approaching the stretch and outran fellow longshots Breaking the Rules and Doswell late to win by two lengths in 1:46.16 over turf course rated good.

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Since the Pegasus Turf was inaugurated in 2019, the Fort Lauderdale was moved from early January to mid-December to serve as the local stepping-stone to the Pegasus Day event. Eight of the 10 horses in Saturday’s field were stakes winners, six of them in graded company led by millionaire favorite Factor This.

“Very salty field, indeed, and very fast fractions,” Pletcher said. “[Largent] is a horse that’s generally laying up close. I just told Paco, ‘It looks like there’s a lot of pace, just try to sit in the pocket,’ and he delivered a very good ride.”

“One thing is, he’s always loved Gulfstream. He’s always run very well here and we just felt like it was the right time to step up,” he added. “He’d been training great and it was the right time to see if he could step up into a big spot.”

It was the third career stakes win and first in graded company for Largent, who captured a pair of Virginia-bred stakes earlier this year at Colonial Downs and Laurel Park. The 4-year-old Into Mischief gelding has now won four of his five starts at Gulfstream, with one second.

“He’s always run well here and he’s a horse that has shown some talent. This was definitely his toughest task to date but he showed that he likes it here and delivered a big performance,” Pletcher said. “I think he certainly ran well enough today to earn a spot into the Pegasus, which we’d love to do.”

Lopez settled Largent in mid-pack as his Pletcher-trained stablemate, Grade 1 winner Halladay, and Factor This battled dueled on the front end through fractions of 23.22 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 46.34 for the half, going six furlongs in 1:09.62. Lopez tipped outside after saving ground early and powered through the stretch to cruise past the tiring leaders.

“[Pletcher] said, ‘Paco, there’s a lot of speed, four or five horses. Just go behind them and relax. Figure out where you are and ride your race,’” Lopez said. “He broke well, he came back and he was very comfortable. We came around horses at the top of the stretch and went on.”

Doswell, a winner of his previous two races, came up the rail to edge Breaking the Rules for second. They were followed by graded winners Spooky Channel and Channel Cat, Tide of the Sea, Halladay, Factor This, multiple graded-stakes winner Somelikeithotbrown and French Group 3 winner Delaware.

“There was a little bit of cut [in the ground] and they were certainly going fast enough. The key was that [Largent] was able to settle and relax early on and that allowed him to deliver a big closing kick,” Pletcher said. “Unfortunately for Halladay there was so much pace in today’s race. We didn’t want to take away his weapon, but at the same time he was probably doing a little too much early on.”

Pletcher was the trainer of Channel Cat when he ran 10th of 12 in the most recent edition of the Pegasus Turf, won in an upset by Zulu Alpha.

“With Largent, I think he certainly earned his way in and with Halladay, we’ll assess how he comes out of it,” Pletcher said. “We’ll get them home and evaluate both of them but we’ll just kind of play it by ear with Halladay.”

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