HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Final Mesa made jockey Joel Rosario’s cross-country trip well worthwhile Wednesday, scoring a 1-3/4-length victory in the $100,000 Old Hat, the featured race on the opening day card of Gulfstream Park’s 2011 Thoroughbred meeting before a crowd of 7,358.

Sent to post as the 5-2 third-choice in a field of six for the Grade 3 stakes for 3-year-old fillies, Final Mesa stalked the swift early pace set by It’s Me Mom under the Southern California riding star before taking the lead midway on the final turn and continuing on to her fourth victory in five lifetime starts.

Pomperoy’s Pistol, a 34-1 longshot ridden by Paco Lopez, closed well to finish second, 5-1/4 lengths clear of Roxy Gap, the 3-2 betting choice ridden by Julien Leparoux. It’s Me Mom faded to fourth. Quantum Miss, the 7-5 favorite, finished a distant fifth under Jeremy Rose after a troubled start.

After stalking fast fractions of :21 3/5, :44 and :56 1/5 for five furlongs, Final Mesa completed six furlongs in 1:09 3/5.

Final Mesa ($7.80), owned and trained by Wesley Ward, only gave Rosario momentary cause for concern during the 30th running of the Old Hat.

“She broke well, but I saw the two other horses (It’s Me Mom and Quantum Miss) going a little quicker, so I just got her into an easy gallop off of them,” said Rosario, who also scored aboard the Ward-trained Gazillion Kisses for a debut victory in the sixth race. “She quickened really well and ran hard through the stretch. I never really panicked in the stretch because my filly was running hard the whole way.”

Ward had nothing but praise for Final Mesa, who won her first three races before finishing off the board on Del Mar’s synthetic course in her most recent start last August.

“I think she’s a special filly. She might not have liked the track at Del Mar the only time she got beat,” Ward said. “I was between taking her there or Saratoga, but at the time, I thought her two races on synthetic tracks were even better than her one race on dirt. I like to give my horses six to seven weeks between races. So we’ll look for something here, probably two turns.”


Two-time Kentucky Derby winner Nick Zito got off to a flying start on opening day, saddling back-to-back winners in the fourth and fifth races. Zito won the fourth with S.S. Stone and the fifth with Doctor Peach ($19).

Trainer Juan Vazquez, who had one winner in 17 starts last season, also saddled a pair of winners: Midnight Thunder in the second ($8) and War Prospector ($85.40) in the seventh.