Pay Any Price, a record holder on the Gulfstream Park turf course, returned from a five-month layoff to score a half-length victory in the $110,000 Canterbury Stakes on Saturday’s opening-day program of the 2017-2018 Championship Meet.
The Canterbury, a five-furlong turf dash for horses that started for a claiming price of $25,000 or less since Jan. 1, 2016, was one of nine Claiming Crown stakes run for a total of $1.1 million in purses.
Pay Any Price, who set a Gulfstream record while running five furlongs on turf in 53.61 seconds to win the Silks Run Stakes last March, had been pointed toward the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) at Del Mar Nov. 4 before sustaining a foot injury.
The 7-year-old gelding, a strong 1-2 favorite in a field of 12, broke on top under jockey Edgard Zayas and set fast fractions of 21.43 (seconds), and 44.54 for the first half mile to maintain a clear lead at the top of the stretch. Oak Bluffs, a 35-1 longshot ridden by Paco Lopez, cut the corner off the final turn and made steady progress through the stretch but fell short of catching the odds-on favorite, who dug in late to win his 10th career race in 17 starts.
“I had a very good start. I had to rush him out of the gate a little bit. There was a lot of speed in this race, but he’s a one-way horse, which is to just go to the front and I let him know what he knows to do,” Zayas said. “I pushed him to the lead and after I got the lead, I tried to relax him for a little bit and when I thought it was time to go, I let him go. I think at the end he slowed down a little bit. He spent a couple months not running, but he was all heart at the end. Oak Bluffs was gaining a lot of ground on him down the stretch, but once he got close to us, Pay Any Price wouldn’t let him pass.”
Owned by Averill Racing and Matties Racing, Pay Any Price ran five furlongs on turf in 56.49. Oak Bluffs finished a lengths in from of Sir Navigator.
“He was probably about 75 percent today. Health-wise he was 100 percent but fitness-wise he was about 75 percent,” owner Richard Averill said. “There wasn’t a doubt in my mind he’d be on the lead coming down (the stretch). He held off. He’s got heart. He’s an awesome horse.”
Averill said the comeback victory was somewhat bittersweet.
“We wanted to go to California and run in the Breeders’ Cup, but we did right by the horse and gave him time. We tried to make it and we pushed and it just didn’t happen,” he said. “He’ll be back.”
First Growth Provides Trainer with Happy Homecoming in Express
Trainer Odin Londono Jr. enjoyed a happy homecoming at Gulfstream Park Saturday when he saddled First Growth for a victory in the $110,000 Express.
Londono, who shipped First Growth from Ohio for the six-furlong race for horses that raced for a claiming price of $8,000 or less grew up in the Miami area.
“My father rode here, so I’m from here. I was born and raised here,” he said. “I haven’t been here for a long time. I took a shot, and we were able to take it.”
Ridden by Gerardo Corrales, First Growth ($11.80) relaxed off the pace before making a sweeping move to the lead on the turn into the homestretch. The 5-year-old gelding, who was claimed for $5,000 in January, drew off to score by 3 ½ lengths, running six furlongs in 1:09.61.
“1t was a perfect ride. I told [Corrales], ‘If we’re three-lengths, four-lengths off of it, we’ve got it,’ because I know what he’s capable of,” Londono said. “He’s a horse that has improved every race, so I took a shot.
Blings Express, a career winner of 21 races, finished second after pressing the pace, 1 ½ lengths ahead of Mr. Manning.
Twocubanbrothersu a True ‘Iron Horse’ in Gulfstream Win
Twocubanbrothersu ($10.20) registered a dominating front-running triumph in Saturday’s $110,000 Iron Horse at Gulfstream Park, truly living up to the name of the 1 1/16-mile race for horses that have started for a claiming price of $8,000 or less.
Owned by trainer John Rigattieri and Stephen Derany, the 7-year-old gelding registered his 20th career victory in his 50th start, setting fractions of 23.72 (seconds), 46.98 and 1:10.56 for six furlongs before pulling away to a 1 ½-length victory in 1:47.22.
“I know this horse very well, he’s been training very well. Today was a big field and he likes to be clear on the lead. The plan was to try to get him up close. He broke sharp and I sent him a little bit and he responded great,” jockey Daniel Centeno said. “I saw the favorite and I thought he was going to fight for second but my horse likes to fight and he ran big today.”
Claimed for $6,250 at Tampa Bay Downs in May 2015, Twocubanbrothersu set the pace before finishing second in the 2015 Iron Horse before sitting out the Claiming Crown last year.
“John said he was a late-bloomer, and he was obviously right. He made $100,000 the first year we had him and he had a few injuries,” Derany said. “We stuck with him and now he’s starting to get healthy again. His [speed figures] are going up. He’s 7 years old and still going up.”
Since being claimed by Rigattieri, who has saddled nearly 2,700 winners during his career, Twocubanbrothersu has won 12 of 21 starts and has finished 1-2-3 in all but two races.
Rich Daddy, the 5-2 favorite ridden by Corey Lanerie, closed from off the pace to finish second 1 ¾ lengths ahead of Solve and jockey Paco Lopez.
Cautious Giant Runs Big in $110,000 Rapid Transit
Moshe Mark’s Cautious Giant collected his second straight win, collaring front-running Manhattan Mischief in deep stretch and steadily edging clear to a length victory in the $110,000 Rapid Transit.
Ridden by Emisael Jaramillo for trainer Victor Barboza Jr., Cautious Giant ($11.40) ran seven furlongs in 1:22.78. Manhattan Mischief was a clear second, with Crocodile Charlie third. Defending champion Shaft of Light, the 7-5 favorite, broke poorly and raced in traffic throughout, finishing 10th.
Cautious Giant was making his second start since being claimed by Barboza for $16,000 from a runner-up finish as the favorite Sept. 24 at Gulfstream. Earlier this year, the 6-year-old gelding found himself running in graded stakes, finishing off the board in the Charles Town Classic (G2) and Whitney (G1), the latter behind expected Horse of the Year Gun Runner.
Jaramillo settled Cautious Giant in mid-pack as Manhattan Mischief and Crocodile Charlie dueled through fractions of 22.50 second and 45.05. Jaramillo found room between horses leaving the backstretch to advance his position, swung wide turning for home and steadily gained ground down the lane.
Cautious Giant was claimed for $16,000 in September and won at first asking for his connections in an optional claiming allowance at Gulfstream Park West Nov. 5.
“We had breezed this horse twice since claiming him and thought today was a good option to race him,” Barboza said. “It was my plan every day to run in the Claiming Crown. We will look to run him in the Grade 3 Hal’s Hope [Feb. 24} next.”
Flowers for Lisa
Flowers for Lisa finished off a banner day for trainer Jorge Navarro Saturday, registering a front-running triumph in the $200,000 Jewel, the grand finale of the $1 million Claiming Crown and an 11-race program on the first day of Gulfstream Park’s 2017-2018 Championship Meet.
About an hour after Navarro saddled 2017 Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2) winner Sharp Azteca for a Grade 1 victory in the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct, Flowers for Lisa pulled off a 16-1 upset with his 1 ½-length triumph in the Jewel, a 1 1/8-mile stakes for horses that started for a claiming price of $35,000 or less since Jan. 1, 2016.
Claimed for $20,000 by the Flying P Stable at Monmouth Park in July, Flowers for Lisa gave jockey Paco Lopez his third Claiming Crown win on Saturday’s card. The past Championship Meet titlist also scored aboard Blue Bahia in the $110,000 Distaff Dash and the Martini Glass in the $125,000 Tiara.
“I had a little bit of a bad post position, and Navarro told me to do whatever I want. I know we have a bad position, but I know the horse is ready for this race,” Lopez said. “I rushed a little out of the gate, but my horse was very responsive and we won in hand.”
Flowers for Lisa, who finished second in a $32,000 claiming race at Belmont last time out and who has won one of three starts for his new connections, was hustled out of the far-outside post position by Lopez and responded to open a clear lead into the first turn. Flashy Jewel, ridden by Tyler Gaffalione, pressed the pace along the backstretch without avail, settling for second at the finish, a head in front of ground-saving Diamond Bachelor.
The winning 4-year-old gelding ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.76 after setting fractions of 23.06 (seconds), 47.06, 1:11.28 and 1:35.67 through the first mile.
“Jorge told me the day he claimed him that this was our Claiming Crown horse. This is a dream for me. The phone hasn’t stopped. I got in this game a long time ago. My father was a jockey years ago, he rode down at Bowie, Timonium, Pimlico, Marlboro, tracks that don’t even exist anymore, some of them,” owner Jason Provenzano said. “I fell in love with horses at a young age but I never thought I’d have the money to own them. I got in a good position in my life and we started claiming horses.”
Gigantic Breeze, the 2-1 favorite who won the Grade 2 Autumn Stakes over Woodbine’s Polytrack surface in his most recent race, was never a factor in his first career start on dirt.