Trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey John Velazquez teamed for their third straight stakes victory Saturday at Gulfstream Park when Char-Mari Stable's Navesink River prevailed in the $150,000 Pan American Handicap (gr. II) on the grass.
Naveskink River, a 4-year-old son of Unbridled, snapped a five-race winning streak while recording his first stakes victory.
"He's always shown us he had the ability to get a distance of ground, although not necessarily on the turf," Pletcher said. "But once he showed us he could handle the turf, we wanted to keep him on it. Today is the first day we've been able to keep his mind completely on his business."
Earlier, Pletcher and Velazquez won the $150,000 Orchid (gr. IIT), the female equivalent of the Pan American, with Honey Ryder and the $100,000 Artax with Value Plus.
Navesink River, third while stalking the leaders on the outside, got into gear in the stretch and outlasted pacesetting Quest Star, ridden by Edgar Prado, with a half-length to spare in a time of 2:25 4/5 for the 12 furlongs on going that was firm in spite of earlier rain. Deputy Lad flew late for Ramon Dominguez to just miss the place spot by a head.
"I just wanted to sit close and let him go soon after the first turn and keep him out of trouble," Velazquez said.
The 6-year-old Quest Star was hunting for his third consecutive triumph in the Pan American. He has not won a stakes event since last year's win.
Pressed by Scooter Roach, Quest Star took them through modest fractions of :25 2/5, :50 2/5, 1:15 1/5, 1:39 2/5 and 2:02 3/5, giving way grudgingly inside the eighth pole. Scooter Roach wound up fourth.
Favored Gigli, ridden by Jerry Bailey, was positioned for a run in the lane, but did not respond as he finished sixth.
Navesink River was coming off a fourth-place finish, beaten by just three-quarters of a length by Prince Arch and Gigli in the Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IT) March 6. The victory was the bay colt's first in four starts on the grass. Overall, he has won three of 11 with earnings of $215,645.
Hermitage Farm bred the winner, who was produced by the Easy Goer mare Sheepscot, in Kentucky. He sold for $140,000 at Keeneland in September 2002.
The second choice in the field of eight, Navesink River paid $6, $3.80 and $3.20. Quest Star returned $7 and $4.40 and completed a $42.60 exacta. Deputy Lad, who re-rallied after stalking the pace in fourth for a half-mile and falling back a bit, was $5 to show.
Following Scooter Roach was European, Gigli, Stage Call and Art Variety.