Favored Doubles Partner closed with a rush in the final yards to snatch victory by a neck over Rahystrada in the $125,000 Tampa Bay Stakes (gr. IIT) on the turf March 19 at Tampa Bay Downs (VIDEO) .
Julien Leparoux drove the 4-year-old son of Rock Hard Ten to victory in a blanket finish for trainer Todd Pletcher and owner WinStar Farm.
Bred by Arthur I. Appleton in Florida, Doubles Partner cost $450,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling in August 2008. He is out of Serena's Sister (by Rahy), a full sister to champion and $3.2 million earner Serena's Song, a member of the National Racing Hall of Fame.
Doubles Partner fanned five wide on the final turn and closed rapidly from sixth on the outside at mid-stretch to edge 6-1 shot Rahystrada just before the wire. Rahystrada, ridden by Leandro Goncalves, finished a neck in front of Voodoo Swinge and Pablo Morales, with Bearpath another neck back in fourth.
The final time for the 1 1/16-mile event for older horses was a superb 1:40.67 over firm going, one second off the course mark.
“I thought it was textbook the way it shaped up," said Michael McCarthy, Pletcher's assistant. "He was able to find some cover up the backside, and obviously bided his time around the turn. He was a little late switching leads, but he came home strong.”
McCarthy said that Pletcher hopes to start Doubles Partner at Churchill Downs over Kentucky Derby weekend.
Teaks North, winner of the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (gr. IT) Feb. 5, finished fifth. Yankee Injunuity, at 68-1, dictated a pedestrian pace (:24.09, :48.07, 1:11.38) and lasted to deep stretch before fading to sixth.
This was just the second start since last June for Doubles Partner, who tuned up with a fast-closing second to Tampa Bay Stakes foe Don Cavallo in a 1 1/16-mile optional claiming allowance test Feb. 2 at Gulfstream Park. Doubles Partner won the American Turf Stakes (gr. IIT) against 3-year-olds last April 30 at Churchill Downs.
Leparoux said he enjoyed his first trip to Tampa.
"I had heard how good the turf course is here and Double Partner just loved it," he said. "I rode him for the first time last month and he got away slowly but because the pace that day was so strong he put in a big run at the end. That was his first start after a long layoff so I think we both learned something.
"Today he relaxed very nicely for me and I just let him settle behind the lead group; then when I asked him for run nearing the stretch he responded and was suddenly going past the leaders. There were three of us at the finish but I never doubted he was the winner. I am very grateful that Mr. Pletcher gave me the mount."
The winning bay colt earned $75,000 while boosting his career mark to 4-1-1 in 10 starts. He has banked $299,890.
Doubles Partner carried co-top weight of 122 pounds and paid $6.60, $4.60 and $3.20. Rahystrada, who gained the lead in the final sixteenth and just missed, returned $6.80 and $5 and completed a $45.40 exacta. Voodoo Swinge, who rallied best of all from dead last while widest in the stretch, was $3.40 to show.
Teaks North, who also carried 122, and Yankee Injunuity were followed by Don Cavallo, Vanquisher, Union Bowman and Tannersville. Dinner in Odem, Leading On and Nicanor scratched.