Falling Sky, a 3-year-old Lion Heart colt, sprung a 7-1 upset over the field of nine with his frontrunning conquest under Jose Espinoza and survived an objection to get the job done by a neck. Pasco Stakes winner Dynamic Sky raced erratically in deep stretch to finish a neck shy and likely cost himself the victory. My Name Is Michael, favored at 8-5, was three lengths back after closing late but failing to get up in time.
The objection, made by jockey Angel Serpa aboard Speak Logistics for interference at the quarter pole, was disallowed by Tampa Bay stewards. Speak Logistics finished fourth after being checked when Serpa attempted to come up the rail.
Falling Sky was hustled out to the lead from post 8, and set a moderate pace of :23.49 and :47.68 when maintaining a clear advantage over Divine Ambition. Dynamic Sky was never far back, and bid four wide leaving the second turn as the frontrunner went three-quarters in 1:12.61. Falling Sky shook clear by two lengths in the furlong grounds to get a mile in 1:38.03, then just lasted in a final time of 1:44.79 in the 1 1/16-mile dirt event.
"It wasn't a perfect trip, he hopped coming out and we were chasing horses early on," Espinoza said. "But I didn't have to use him to get the lead; he did it pretty much on his own and was relaxed for me getting to the stretch. I wasn't worried about the objection. I was pretty sure we kept a straight line. He was running really well to the wire."
"I'm happy with his performance," trainer Mark Casse said of Dynamic Sky. "(Jockey) Luis (Contreras) said he was late switching leads, but when he did he came running. It was just too little, too late."
Racing for Newtown Anner Stud, James Covello, and Joseph Bulger, Falling Sky was purchased for $425,000 by his current owners from the consignment of Carlos Morales and Joe Appelbaum's Off The Hook LLC on Jan. 15 at the Ocala Breeders Sales Co.'s January 2013 winter mixed sale. Bloodstock agent Nick Sallusto had followed Falling Sky since his debut victory Nov. 1 at Calder Race Course & Slots, and even though he had yet to race beyond the 6 1/2-furlong distance, Sallusto clued in Terranova on his fondness for the colt.
In an ironic twist, the sales ticket was signed by Justin Casse—a friend of Sallusto's and also the brother of Mark Casse. Falling Sky was a $16,000 purchase by Off the Hook as a weanling at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale.
Falling Sky was bred in Pennsylvania by Copper Penny Stables out of the Sea Hero mare Sea Dragoness. He collected his third win from four starts for earnings of $164,800; the victory was worth 10 points on the road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
"I don't think after what he did today, on this kind of demanding track, a longer distance will be a problem," Terranova said. "We'll talk it over with our group and see how he comes out, but obviously coming back here (for the March 9 Tampa Bay Derby, gr. II) is an option."