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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.

Casa Creed gets up in final strides to win Elusive Quality

With Junior Alvarado sidelined for at least a week due to a concussion, trainer Bill Mott is going to have to find other jockeys to ride his horses in some important races upcoming at Churchill Downs.

He can only hope those jockeys give those horses as good a ride as Joe Bravo gave Casa Creed for Mott in Saturday’s $100,000 Elusive Quality Stakes at Belmont Park.

After saving ground on Casa Creed for the first half-mile of the seven-furlong turf stakes, Bravo was able to get Casa Creed into the clear in upper stretch. Once free, Casa Creed kicked home hard and got up in the final jumps to win the Elusive Quality by a head over Front Run the Fed. It was a nose back to Value Proposition as the Chad Brown-trained runners finished second and third. It was only another neck back to longshot Tell Your Daddy in fourth.

Olympic Runner was fifth followed by Therapist, Proven Strategies, and Seismic Wave.

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The victory was the fourth from 19 starts for Casa Creed, a 5-year-old son of Jimmy Creed owned by Lee Einsidler and radio personality Mike Francesa, the latter who races under the banner JEH Racing.

It was the third stakes win for Casa Creed, who had not won since taking the Grade 2 National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame Stakes in August 2019. He was 0 for 7 since, but had raced in four Grade 1 stakes in that span.

Those races were all at a mile. Mott cut him back to seven furlongs for the first time in the Elusive Quality, named after a horse Mott trained.

Mott was probably hoping for a fast pace on the turnback and then let Casa Creed sit back and come running.

The fast pace did not develop, as Proven Strategies set fractions of 24.05 seconds and 48.02 for the half-mile with some token pressure from Tell Your Daddy.

Bravo had Casa Creed on the inside in sixth, only about four lengths off the pace.

Around the turn, Bravo was able to gradually work his way off the inside and into the five path. In upper stretch, Proven Strategies and Tell Your Daddy were about to be overtaken by Front Run the Fed and Value Proposition, the latter looking for room between horses.

But it was Bravo who had the most horse and passed all four in the final sixteenth to gain the win.

“He had a good trip, he was stuck down inside, which was perfect,” Mott said from Kentucky, where he watched the race via simulcast. “He saved the ground, he had to wait and tip out, the horse gave him a huge kick when he finally got him loose.”

Casa Creed covered the seven furlongs in 1:22.65 and returned $7.60 as the second choice.

“The horse just sat behind horses and the last eighth of a mile was beautiful,” Bravo told New York Racing Association publicity. “I know he wasn’t in front at the eighth pole, but he was a winner the whole way.”

Options for Casa Creed include cutting back to six furlongs in a race such as the Grade 1 Jaipur on June 5 or pointing to the Grade 3, $250,000 Poker at a mile on June 26.

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.”

Tiz Possible Dear comes off the bench to win Millions Distaff

MIAMI – It came as no surprise that trainer Peter Walder and owner Paradise Farm Corp. won Saturday’s $60,000 Millions Distaff with a filly they recently added to the barn via the claim box. After all, when the entries came out, the red-hot Cory Gal looked like one of the top contenders, perhaps the favorite, in the six-furlong dash for Florida-bred fillies and mares.

In the end, however, it was not Cory Gal posing in the winner’s circle after the race but Tiz Possible Dear, who proved a very capable substitute for her stablemate, who had to be scratched from the Distaff due to a minor foot issue. Tiz Possible Dear wired the field under jockey Paco Lopez to register a 2 1/2-length decision over the recently graded stakes-placed Sound Machine.

Walder had claimed Cory Gal for $25,000 out of a one-sided victory on Sept. 12 at Gulfstream Park. He acquired Tiz Possible Dear via the same route six days earlier for a bargain $16,000, also out of a winning effort at Gulfstream.

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“She was kind of obvious off her form and had run a big number on the Ragozin sheets the start prior to when we claimed her, and my owner is a big sheets guy,” Walder said of claiming Tiz Possible Dear. “But we didn’t claim her with this race in mind. The thought was to run her back against first-level statebred company.”

Tiz Possible Dear finished sixth going five furlongs over a sloppy track in her first start for her new connections before bouncing back with a 1 3/4-length decision over similar company on a wet strip when stretched to 6 1/2 furlongs 22 days later.

“I ran her back too short and probably too quick the first time,” Walder said. “Even after she won her next start, I really had no intention of entering her in the Distaff. But the racing office said the nominations were coming up light for the race, so I nominated and ultimately entered her for protection in case something happened to Cory Gal, who probably would have been the favorite the way she’d won her last two.”

Walder said he was so distraught once he realized he had to scratch Cory Gal that he almost passed the Distaff with Tiz Possible Dear as well.

“Not only did I have a foot issue with Cory Gal, I have one with Fast Pass, who I also train for Paradise, and which is going to keep him out of the Claiming Crown, which we’ve pointed to since the spring,” Walder said. “Fortunately, Tom Flynn, who serves as racing manager for Paradise, told me to quit being depressed about the one who wasn’t running Saturday and worry about the one who still can. After looking at the race, I realized Tiz Possible Dear was lone speed, and when the track came up wet, which I knew she loves, it was a no-brainer to run her.”

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Walder said he is uncertain what will be next for Tiz Possible Dear, citing the Dec. 5 Claiming Crown at Gulfstream Park as an option.

“We’ll look at the sheet numbers for the race and go from there,” Walder said. “She may also be eligible for a straight one-other-than allowance race as well. Unfortunately, there is no Sunshine Millions Distaff this year, so that is not an option.”

Seven go in allowance

The penultimate week of the Gulfstream Park West meeting kicks off with an eight-race card Wednesday topped by a $38,000 first-level allowance race for Florida-bred fillies and mares going six furlongs on the main track. The race drew a wide-open field of seven, with both Sunset Empire and Uncaptured Ruby bringing modest two-race win streaks into the race.

Sunset Empire is coming off an easy 2 1/4-length victory over open $12,500 claiming opposition in a race moved from the turf to the main track, making her perfect in two starts over the local strip. Uncaptured Ruby ships down from Monmouth Park, where she won each of her last two starts by a neck against $12,500 conditioned-claiming opposition.

Softer Spot Helps Premier Star Find Winner’s Circle In Jersey Shore

If Premier Star’s solid showing in his last race wasn’t enough to convince trainer Michael Trombetta that the colt was sitting on a breakout performance, his recent works erased any doubts.

Those two indicators proved to be spot on.

Able to squeeze through an opening after three-eighths of a mile to take the lead, Premier Star powered his way to an impressive 4 3/4-length victory in Wednesday’s $100,000 Jersey Shore Stakes for 3-year-olds at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J.

One race after finishing four lengths behind Yaupon, a top contender for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint trained by Steve Asmussen, and two lengths behind multiple Grade 1 winner Basin in the Grade 2 Amsterdam at Saratoga on Aug. 29, Premier Star dispatched his six rivals with ease.

Winning time for the six furlongs was a sharp 1:09.61.

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“This horse has trained really well,” said Trombetta. “I was a little concerned when (Paco) squeezed up the inside and it looked like he might have room, and then you’re thinking maybe not, but he was able to get through and grab the spot and the lead, which he wanted. He’s a pretty fast horse. These type of horses don’t like to be checked or steadied. They just don’t recover from that a lot of times. I’m glad (Paco) was able to make it work.

“As tough as his last race was and as well as he ran in my mind that day they still have to run. Every horse race is a different race. A lot of things have to go right to win them. Today was his day.”

Owned by Sonata Stable, the son of Tapiture improved to 4-for-7 lifetime with his first stakes score. Longshot Johnny Ritt held second, a neck ahead of Meru.

Lopez made the winning move by squeezing through an opening down the backside as Johnny Ritt and As Seen On TV dueled through an opening quarter of :22.09, with Premier Star just off of them.

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“He’s a big horse and a couple of them broke faster than he did but he was running once he got going,” said Lopez. “I guess it was about the three-eighths that I had to decide to go outside or inside and I saw room on the rail and I took and he went right to the lead. He was very strong today.”

Once Premier Star made the lead he started extending his advantage through an opening half in :44.74. He returned $4.20 to win.

“I knew he ran against some monsters last race but I was surprised the instructions were to send him. But they know him. They know how he likes to race,” said Lopez. “Once he made the lead no one was catching him.”

Premier Star now has two wins and a third in the four starts for Trombetta, who took over the horse’s training from Jorge Navarro this spring.

Racing resumes at Monmouth Park with a 10-race card on Saturday, Oct. 17. First race post time is 12:50 p.m. ET.

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