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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing

2024 RACING SEASON OFF TO A CLASSY START IN SOUTH FLORIDA OVER THE HOLIDAY WEEKEND

HALLANDALE BEACH, January 2, 2023 – To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to be focused on the results of Monday’s Mucho Man Stakes at Gulfstream as it is unlisted event and is run at a flat mile. How does a one-turn elongated sprint shed light on the Derby class of 2024?

But past performances–both the running lines and clues that only video can reveal–paint a different scene. We’re not saying that the race will portend a Florida Derby hero, much less a serious Kentucky Derby contender.

However, it was enough to know that five of the six horses who answered the starter’s call are promising colts with a future. Of course, that future much depends on further development and two-turn ability. But some already have checked that box, too–and some have a knack for overcoming trouble as well.

Take the winner, Otello, for instance. He overcame race dynamics to win on debut and did so again vs. winners, all more seasoned than he. Now, after two trouble-filled journeys, he certifiably can be called a high class individual. As trainer Christophe Clement explained:

“He got into a lot of trouble first time out in New York and he won well. The same applied [Monday] but he got out of the trouble and he won well. He was good enough to overcome it. I’m thrilled.”

As in his debut, Otello was set to make his move but was bottled up. On both occasions he was forced to wait, find a seam between rivals, and did so with style. And, as Clement observed, the colt lengthened stride and finished well in deep stretch, drawing out through the finish post.

“We had a little trouble at the three-eighths because the horse in front was going all over the place,” jockey Luis Saez said post race. “The thing with him was trying to get a clean run, and he did it pretty well.”

Runnerup First World War is also promising. Fourth, beaten 1-1/2 lengths in the G2 Bourbon, he placed in his main track two-turn debut prior to Monday’s mile, having some trouble himself.

First World War had a clear outside run this time and finished well through the stretch but unable to hold Otello safe in the final strides but besting a very game, pace-setting Sea Streak.

Inveigled, a promising winner of his debut in Hallandale following a neck defeat in Laurel’s J F Lewis previously, raced between horses at the turn, forcing Irad Ortiz to ease back and tip out for the drive.

The Enticed gelding was clear through the stretch and also made a sustained finish but could not match strides with Otello.

No More Time, an impressive second-out maiden winner, hopped in the air at the break from his pole position, veering in significantly and compelling Jose Ortiz to alter course to the far outside. He mid-moved sharply while wide at the turn but understandably tired.

The next stop on the Florida Derby route is the G3 Holy Bull at 1-1/16 miles FEB 3.

“He’ll have to go two turns next time, obviously, the question is where,” admitted Clement. “We’ve got time to think about that.” As do Monday’s rivals, and those waiting in the wings.

BETS N’ PIECES:  Oisin Murphy, a three-time riding champion in Great Britain, got his first winner at Gulfstream Saturday on his fourth ride, guiding Variable Cost to victory on the Tapeta surface. Murphy will ride in South Florida through month’s end… O’Connor, a multiple-group winner in Chile, improved in his fourth-place finish in last year’s G3 Harlan’s Holiday and got up in the final strides beneath a rail-skimming Tyler Gaffalione. He and stablemate Skippylongstocking are being pointed by Saffie Joseph Jr. to the G1 Pegasus World Cup Invitational… Full Count Felicia never left the fence and finished with a flourish beneath Irad Ortiz Jr. to take the G3 Suwannee River, winning her prep for the G2 Pegasus World Cup Filly & Mare Turf.

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