Jockey Shaun Bridgmohan enjoyed a spectacular start to the opening weekend of Gulfstream Park's 2006 season, completing a sweep of the track's three features when Gaff won the $100,000 Mr. Prospector (gr. III) Saturday in track-record time.
It was the first graded stakes win for Gaff, a 4-year-old Maria's Mon
colt who held off the charge of War Front and Jose Santos in the final strides for a neck victory. Gaff, trained by Steve Asmussen for owner Heiligbrodt Racing Stable, completed the six-furlong Mr. Prospector for older horses in 1:08 2/5, two ticks faster than the old mark.
Bridgmohan won the $100,000 Hal's Hope with On Thin Ice and the $125,000 Aventura for 3-year-olds aboard Doctor Decherd prior to Gaff's victory.
Dual Classic winner Funny Cide, second choice in the field of eight after blanking in three starts in 2005, was never a factor under Edgar Prado, finishing seventh. The 6-year-old Distorted Humor
gelding, who won the 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness (gr. I) has not visited the winner's circle since capturing the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) in October 2004.
Gaff, in contention from the outset as 5-2 favorite Friendly Island carved solid fractions of :22 3/5 and :45, wrestled the lead away in mid-stretch and dug in for the final furlong to hold off War Front. Friendly Island, ridden by John Velazquez, was a stubborn third, a half-length farther behind. Nightmare Affair finished fourth.
Since returning to competition in the United States from Ireland in September with a third-place finish in a Belmont Park allowance race, Gaff has won three in a row, although this was his first stakes appearance in North America. He was coming off a 3 3/4-length allowance victory at Churchill Downs Nov. 9. Gaff had a pair of group III placings at Leopardstown and won a listed stakes at Fairyhouse as a 2-year-old.
The victory, Gaff's fourth in an 11-race career, boosted his earnings to $193,147.
Earle Irving Mack bred Gaff, who was produced by Ionlyhaveeeyesforu (by Tunerup) in Kentucky and was sold at Keeneland as a yearling in 2003 for $100,000.
Gaff paid $13.60, $6.40, and $4.20. War Front, who was coming off a sixth-place finish in the Discovery Handicap (gr. III) at Belmont Oct. 29, returned $5.80 and $3.80. Friendly Island, fourth in the DeFrancis Memorial (gr. I) at Laurel most recently, was $3.20 to show. The $2 exacta returned $78.20.
Nightmare Affair, Storm Surge, Sir Greeley, Funny Cide, and Pisgah, who broke poorly, rounded out the order of finish.