Trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey John Velazquez combined for their fourth win on Saturday's Gulfstream Park card when Sumaya Us Stables' Newfoundland won the $100,000 Skip Away Handicap (gr. III).
Newfoundland disposed of pacesetters Super Frolic and Christine's Outlaw at the head of the stretch and held off deep closing Supah Blitz by a half-length. The time was 1:43 1/5 for the 1 1/16-mile test for 3-year-olds and up.
The beautifully-bred 4-year-old chestnut Storm Cat
colt, who won the Canadian Turf (gr. III) when it was switched to the main track Jan. 31 at Gulfstream, won for the second consecutive time and now has victories in four of his last five starts.
"This horse just keeps getting better and better," Velazquez said. "I wanted him on cruise control today, but he just wanted to go. Once he got to the lead it was easy. The only thing he still has to learn is when he gets to the lead he wants to pull up."
Bowman's Band, the 7-5 favorite in the field of 10, was third, 2 3/4 lengths behind the winner.
Newfoundland stalked the pace while three wide as Christine's Outlaw, tracked by Super Frolic, clicked off leisurely fractions of :24, :48 1/5 and 1:12. At the top of the stretch, Newfoundland took over, responding when challenged by Supah Blitz near the sixteenth pole to win in an all-out duel.
Supah Blitz, with Cornelio Velasquez aboard, rallied wide in the stretch to reach even terms with Newfoundland, but could not get past. Bowman's Band, well placed along the inside for Ramon Dominguez while racing in mid-pack, was forced to wait for room leaving the far turn and came on well to loom a threat but tired.
Newfoundland, from the Deputy Minister
mare Clear Mandate, was a $3.3 million Keeneland September Yearling buy for John Magnier and Michael Tabor in 2001 who was sold privately more than a year ago. He won for the fifth time in 11 United States efforts while increasing his American earnings to $257,234. Overall, he has winnings of $273,784 with seven wins from 15 starts.
"I thought we had the best horse in here today," Pletcher said. "I was surprised that we were overlooked. This horse has really improved since his last race. He's just about there when it comes to taking on the best horses in the division. I'm very optimistic, especially since this horse really likes Belmont. We'll see if we can find something for him before that."
The fourth choice of the public, he paid $14, $7.20 and $3.80. Supah Blitz returned $14.80 and $5.60. Bowman's Band showed for $3. The $2 exacta was worth $129.40.
Assessing his day, Pletcher noted, "This is probably my best day in terms of wins. We got another one at Belmont, so five in one day is the most we've ever done.
"It's my make-up, though to go back and try and figure out why Chapel Royal didn't run well (in the Swale) and try and correct that. I thought we ran a winning race in the Florida Derby (with Value Plus) but our hand was pressed a little early because Read the Footnotes got through on the inside. I'm pleased with what we did. I thought we could win the Florida Derby and not peak. I think we didn't peak in this race today. Now we're hoping we can get him to peak two races from now."