Saturday, February 06, 2016
Mshawish Earns G1 Status on Dirt in Saturday’s Donn Handicap
Pletcher-Trained Veteran Like to Start Next in Dubai World Cup
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Al Shaqab Racing’s Mshawish joined elite company Saturday with his thoroughly commanding triumph in the $500,000 Donn Handicap (G1) at Gulfstream Park.
His two-length triumph gave the Todd Pletcher-trained 6-year-old Grade 1 credentials on dirt as well as turf, a fairly rare accomplishment in the Thoroughbred world. The winner of the 2015 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1) clearly demonstrated his equal affinity for dirt Saturday while posting his second-strength stakes triumph on the main track at Gulfstream.
Mshawish was always well-placed under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez in the 1 1/8-mile race, sitting third along the rail behind pacesetter Financial Modeling and stalker Valid around the first turn and along the backstretch. On the turn into the homestretch, Velazquez had to be patient while lacking room behind Financial Modeling and Valid before angling to the outside at the top of the stretch. Valid, ridden by Nik Juarez, edged past a tiring Financial Modeling and jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. in mid-stretch but was no match for the fresh legs of Mshawish.
“I always had a lot of horse, but it was a tough race. I was in a perfect position the whole way because I knew the horse laying second (Valid) eventually he had to move to get to the horse on the lead (Financial Modeling). And when he started moving, I got my position and held it there,” Velazquez said. “From the quarter pole I let him go and he went on. He finished up really well. For a horse that they were concerned about going two turns and a mile and an eighth, it doesn’t seem like it bothered him at all.”
While winning the finale of the six-stakes portion of Saturday’s 13-race program at Gulfstream, Mshawish, the 9-2 third betting choice, ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.89.
“I was pretty happy. I loved the way he finished up at a mile and an eighth. That was kind of the one thing we were looking to prove that he could stay a mile and an eighth on the dirt,” Pletcher said. “I actually thought he ran the best race of his career really, and he’s run some good ones before that. It was good to see him finish up like that. He got a great a trip. Johnny gave him a great ride and he delivered a big performance.”
Pletcher said he would talk with Al Shaqab Racing officials about his next start but is looking forward to running Mshawish on dirt next in the $10 million Dubai World Cup (G1) March 26.
Crossed Sabres Farm’s Valid, who lost a photo finish to Mshawish by a neck in the Hal’s Hope, turned in another gritty performance and likely would have been closer at the finish had he not endured bumping from Financial Modeling in the stretch.
“He ran great. I couldn’t ask him to run any better,” said trainer Marcus Vitali, whose multiple-stakes winner finished a half-length in front of third-place finisher Mexikoma. “He’s a fighter.”
Keen Ice, whose claim to fame is beating 2015 Triple Crown champion American Pharoah in the Travers Stakes (G1) last summer, trailed the eight-horse field early before making a late run to finish sixth as the 2-1 favorite.
“The speed was holding pretty good today. It was hard to come from behind. But I liked the way he did it today because he came running the last part. I know an extra furlong he could get it done,” said Javier Castellano, who was aboard Keen Ice in his Travers upset. “He passed the wire galloping out strong and passed the other horses. I couldn’t pull him up. A mile and a quarter will be good for him.”
Keen Ice is expected to join Mshawish in Dubai.
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