The former claiming horse Universal Form got the heated pace he was looking for, scoring a come-from-behind shocker at odds of 53-1 in the $100,000 Deputy Minister Handicap (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park Sunday.
War Front, the 9-10 favorite in the field of seven, opened up a daylight lead in the stretch after disposing of Friendly Island with sizzling fractions of :21 3/5 and :44. But War Front, with John Velazquez riding, didn't have much left in the final furlong and could not hold off the rallying Universal Form, who won by a length under Manoel Cruz. The final time for the 6 1/2-furlong Deputy Minister was 1:16 2/5.
Trained by Calder-based Rolle Elliston for owner Universal Xperience, the 5-year-old Universal Form could have been claimed in March for $32,000 at Gulfstream, where he had lost all eight of his previous races. Four of his five career wins have come at the 6 1/2-furlong distance.
"This is the biggest race that I've ever won," Rolle said. "The jockey rode a great race. (Universal Form) is a pro at this distance. The (fast) pace helped us, and all those elements helped him."
Owner Universal Xperience is headed by Karl Allen and Godfrey Anderson, Jamaicans who now live in South Florida.
Winner of the Radar Love at Calder Nov. 27, the son of Formal Dinner returned an eye-popping $109, $21.60, and $7.20 as by far the longest shot on the board. He was making his first start since a fifth-place finish in the Kenny Noe Jr. Handicap at Calder Dec. 17.
"He's gotten better with age," Rolle said. "Manny Cruz fits him because he's a stubborn horse. He wants to be urged more than a finesse jockey gives you. He needs a couple of smacks out there."
Universal Form did not have an easy time. He had no early speed, dropping about 10 lengths off the pace. Closing while three wide on the turn, Universal Form had to work his way through tight quarters and nearly ran up the heels of the retreating Friendly Island near the eighth pole. Once clear, he finished up strongly under urging to win going away.
"The race went too fast," Cruz said. "I thought I had the best break (start), but then I let him drop back. He runs from far behind, and I think the other horses got a little tired, and I took advantage."
War Front, looking to avenge a neck loss in the Mr. Prospector Handicap (gr. III) Jan. 7, returned $2.80 and $2.20. It was four lengths back to Judiths Wild Ride, Shaun Bridgmohan aboard, who tired in the stretch, paying $3.40 to show.
Wild Tale came home fourth, followed by Social Probation, Friendly Island, and Wiggins.
Universal Form earned $60,000 for his fifth win in 34 lifetime starts and has now banked $183,930 in his career. Dr. D.W. Frazier bred the dark bay, who's out of Pyrite Phone (by Phone Trick), in Florida.