At least that’s how the first Saturday of the meet began. We arrived at the Gulfstream simulcasts in time to see Javier Castellano guide second favorite Warm to victory in the day’s opener.
That was good; Castellano, unseated when his mount fell strides after the wire in Friday’s finale. Later we heard the bad news. that there was so saving the maiden-claiming filly he was riding. First Night was euthanized almost immediately.
Fight Night, the odds-on favorite in Friday 10th race, was in a match-race style head-to-head duel with eventual winner Accabonac Harbor, who was making her first start this year. Fight Night , dropping into a claimer for the first time, raced earlier in 2019 at Santa Anita. Draw your own conclusions.
FIRST RACE: As above, Javier won the opener at 9-5 after sitting a loose pocket behind favorite speedster She’s Not Bluffing (6-5), who completed the exacta; winner clearly best.
SECOND: If it’s 5-1/2 on the grass, it must be Linda Rice, right? Well, yes, and Rice had Linda’s Ballet ready to dance. She speed-popped from the middle of the 11-horses field, relaxed, re-surged, and never was seriously threatened for the win.
Mike’s Gift made a strong rally down the center of the course to compete the exacta; won’t be a maiden long; bet back.
G2 SANFORD: As stated earlier, lost in the Diana/Chad Brown storyline is the fact that this Grade 2 drew only five entrants. Favorite By Your Side, the fastest coming into the race, was the fastest coming home. Breaking sharply under Irad, he stalked, attacked, and drew off late–clearly best..
Cucina was bumped from between horses leaving the gate, entered the stretch 4x while on the move, but idled midway home. Maybe distance for him down the road, or turf, or maybe just isn’t good enough. Time always tells.
FOURTH: Experience pays for Zyramid, who broke maiden with authority with Manny Franco in the boot for Steve Asmussen. Stakes are in his near future…Fast working Todd first-timer, High Tide, showed no zip and was flat through the lane after tipping out for the drive. Don’t know what to make of it.
Peddlers Pride finished well down the center of the track after the fact; bet back in proper spot.
FIFTH: Originator was a game winner under perfect handling from Chris Landeros, finishing gamely to win it for Ian Wilkes and jockey agent Richard Migliore. Saving ground behind a rapid pace, he overcame a chain-reaction bump when runnerup Catch A Thrill lugged in and nailed two rivals.
SIXTH: In the result chart, it’s going to appear as if winning Field Pass took the lead soon after entering the stretch and had to drive hard to hold runnerup Decorated Invader safe.
That’s happened, but not after the winner showed an excellent turn of foot, gaining separation at a critical juncture. Stretching to two turns off a single Churchill Downs sprint, this juvenile grass colt is worth following.
Mr. Jaggers, a first time starter from Bill Mott, was bet from 10-1 early line down to 2-1 favorite. He will benefit from his third place finish; note.
SEVENTH: Trips proved the difference here as overlay Special Story, under patient, clever handling from Jose Lezcano–Belmont’s leading rider and tied for first here with Castellano with four wins, getting the money after Junior Alvarado sent Red Zinger up to attack the leaders from the far outside.
The wide, premature move got to Red Zinger, finishing third after getting split in the exacta by favorite Lutsky. Check your ducats, superfecta fans, as longshot Kerry Boy and Amundson finished in a dead heat for fourth.
EIGHTH: Javier got his second with a well timed ride astride Peaceful, who shipped for Jonathan Thomas off a fast, sharp effort, winning at a very square 5-2 as the crowd went for Rusty Arnold’s First Wave.
Arnold’s filly stalked throughout under a pull from Tyler Gaffalione, the team succumbing only in the final jumps. Longshot Quasar made a wide, mid-race bid before tiring; may be worth following as this might serve as a useful bridge for a stretch-out; follow.
G1 DIANA: The Queen lives, long live the Queen. Making her first start in eight months, Eclipse Female Turf Champion Sistercharlie showed no rust coming off the lengthy layoff, running down four-time Grade 1 winner Rushing Fall inside the final sixteenth despite her mate getting first run.
Homerique, 20 lengths out of it on the backside, tipped very wide into stretch, lugged in while rallying in midstretch, losing her momentum and had to settle for third.
The first three finishers gave Chad Brown a sweep of the trifecta and his fifth Diana victory. For winning rider Johnny Velazquez, it was his sixth, a Diana record. The extremely classy mare, aided by rabbit-like fractions, finished nine furlong in 1:47.93 on the Spa inner turf.
TENTH: Patriot Drive took the last over Derby Champagne for Midwest Thoroughbreds, Danny Gargan and Kendrick Carmouche. Now where have I seen that before?