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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing

From South Florida to New York to Canada; Top Class

Stormy Embrace Approaches Finish Line in the Princess Rooney Saturday at Gulfstream Park                                          Photo by Toni Pricci

Hallandale Beach, FL — After a gloomy beginning, Gulfstream Park’s Summit of Speed lived up to its billing. The cessation of rain, a break in the clouds, and a good job by track superintendent Tony Martinez saw the surface go from sloppy to muddy to good to wet-fast by post time for Grade 2 Princess Rooney.

“I worried about [the track conditions] forever,” admitted winning trainer Kathleen O’Connell, whose filly Stormy Embrace took back-to-back renewals of the ‘Rooney’, winning her way back to the Breeders’ Cup F & M Sprint.

Trainer Kathleen O’Connell
             Photo by Toni Pricci

“The track isn’t exactly perfect; it’s not a fast track, kind of in-between. Sometimes you wish it would keep raining and get sloppy, easier to get through than a kind of drying-out track. I just wanted a safe trip,” she added.

Stormy Embrace got a safe, and perfect one, the kind that places more emphasis on staying power after speed types had dominated earlier. Unlike her extremely wide draw in last year’s F&M Sprint, post six of seven was ideal. Wilmer Garcia, 3-for-3 on the filly since JAN, 2018, stalked two engaged rivals before being asked in earnest

“The best thing about her is that you can do whatever you want. She’s got speed but if you ask her she’ll go overboard. Wilmer’s got a great set of hands and he really fits her well,” explained O’Connell.

Trenchtown Cat provided some anxious stretch moments, but class won the day and Stormy Embrace improved her Gulfstream record to 6-for-12, with two seconds and a third. As for the future, O’Connell isn’t sure.

“She tells us what she needs. She’s lasted a long time and mostly because [owners Matalona Thoroughbreds LLC] are patient, wonderful people. She’s holding her weight good, her coat’s good. We go one race at a time.”


Julien Leparoux was under the wrong impression. He shipped south for the man who jump-started his career, Patrick Biancone, to partner Razorback Lady in the ‘Rooney’. Diamond Oops was little more than a Smile Stakes afterthought.

“You thought you were coming in to win with Razorback Lady but it’s going to be the other way,” Biancone said he told Leparoux before the races. “He said, ‘Why?’ I said, because [Diamond Oops] loves the wet and the other one hates it.”

It’s unlikely that anything would have prevented Diamond Oops from running down a gritty, pace-pressured favorite, Jalen Journey, who tried valiantly but was outrun in the final strides of the Grade 3 six furlongs.

Trainer Patrick Biancone
                        Photo by Toni Pricci

Diamond Oops was making his third start as a 4 year old, but his first on dirt this year. Biancone used two turf sprints–one the G1 Jaipur on the Belmont Stakes undercard–to get him ready after having only one race all last year.

“When bringing a horse back from a problem, the turf is a little easier on them,” Biancone said. “I trained the mother [Patriotic Viva] and the grandmother and they could do anything; long, short, turf, dirt. He’s a better horse on the dirt.”

Biancone was asked if he might ship up to Saratoga for something a bit more ambitious. “I’m certainly thinking about it but first I’m going to go out and drink some champagne.” Biancone earned his bubbly, returning Diamond Oops to the Gulfstream main track in old-school fashion. It was the gelding’s fourth win in six starts in Hallandale.


On form, the Queen’s Plate winner was more than eligible to win Canada’s most prestigious race, but the lack of sufficient pace pressure handed him the million-dollar purse on a platter.

Richard Baltas trainee One Bad Boy was one of four strong contenders going into Woodbine’s signature event. Another major challenger was eventual runner-up Avie’s Flatter beneath Javier Castellano who already had ridden two graded winners on the program.

A third major contender, Skywire, was sandwiched very badly at the start and never recovered from it. The filly Desert Ride, in striking position and with some chance approaching headstretch, finished evenly and checked in fifth.

The top contenders combined for the two-speed number but not before putting on a dramatic stretch battle. Avie’s Flatter weakened late in his seasonal debut. Early gambits of 24.52 and 49.52 left more than enough in the tank for Flavien Prat, who completed the rare Kentucky Derby-Queen’s Plate double, getting a big-time assist in both.

And so Santa’s Anita loss was Woodbine’s gain as Baltas and Prat showed that One Bad Boy was just too quick for this group. We’ll see if he can do it again. One Bad Boy is being considered for a Canadian Triple Crown run, his connections mulling over the Prince of Wales and Breeders’ Stakes.  


Uni improved her record to 5-for-5 going one mile on turf, ridden with complete confidence by Joel Rosario. Even when trailing on the far turn, he appeared in control, knowing he would get there, angling out for a clear run at headstretch.

“She really looked the best among the field on paper and showed it today,” said Rosario. “She’s just a runner. She’s able to make a big move and got the job done.” And with speed in reserve.

Not long thereafter Dunbar Road took the Mother Goose, another ridden with contemptuous ease by Jose Ortiz who, even when surrounded on the turn, never rattled. Like Rosario he knew it was only a matter of time. Still he split horses into the stretch, kissing the rival to his outside on the way home.

“With her being a young horse, she needs to get something out of it, and today was a perfect day,” said Ortiz. “She was travelling comfortably and I felt like she was always there for me. When she got out of there, I was close to them and I just liked that she showed a good turn of foot. This will set her up for later.”

And to think she might not even be the best 3 year old filly in her own barn. The question is how long can Brown keep Dunbar Road and Guarana apart?

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