Freshened Silver Tree Takes Appleton With Late Rush

Freshened Silver Tree Takes Appleton With Late Rush
Photo: Equi-Photo/Justin Dernier
Silver Tree returned from a layoff with a victory in the Appleton Handicap.
Peter Vegso's favored Silver Tree returned to his favorite course off a layoff Sunday, closing with a big rush to sweep past Steel Light in the final strides and capturing the $125,000 Appleton Handicap (gr. IIIT) by a neck on the Gulfstream Park turf.

Under top weight of 118 pounds, Silver Tree completed the one mile distance in 1:32 and change on firm going. The clocking was just over three-fifths off the track record of 1:31 2/5 set by Mr. Light in 2005. The 7-year-old Hennessy horse has now won four of six starts on the Gulfstream lawn and has never been out of the money over the course. The Bill Mott trainee picked up his first victory since the Turf Classic at Tampa Bay Downs in April.

The Florida homebred Silver Tree had not been out since finishing fourth in the Tri State Handicap at Ellis Park Sept. 2. The victory, the ninth in 29 lifetime starts for the multiple graded stakes winner, was worth $75,000 to his connections and ran his career bankroll to $1,228,929.

“He was just old and tired and needed a rest last year," Mott said. "He wasn’t moving that well and needed to be turned out for about 60 days. He spent most of it on Peter’s (Vegso) farm in Ocala. The plan always was to bring him back eventually. The folks on the farm put some of the initial miles into him and he came to me ready to go.

"He was working well and moving well and seemed to be enjoying himself. We’re not sure what’s next. We hadn’t really considered it. His best distance is probably a mile-and-a-sixteenth. And we know he’s a two-turn horse. The times he’s tried one turn, it hasn’t worked.”

Edgar Prado guided Silver Tree from the inside post into a rating position along the inside near the back of the tight pack as Giant Wrecker took the field into the stretch through swift fractions of :22 4/5, :45 4/5 and 1:09. Kiss the Kid and Gin and Sin were pressuring the pacesetter mid-stretch but the entire complexion of the race changed in the final furlong. Steel Light, fairly close to the leaders while also saving ground under Kent Desormeaux, was trapped on the final turn but angled out in the lane and rallied to get the lead leaving the furlong pole. Silver Tree, who was forced to angle widest of all as Prado looked for racing room, finished with a flourish to get up in time. Steel Light held second by one-half length over Old Dodge, who also closed well to gain third.

Silver Tree paid $7.60, $4.40 and $3.20. Steel Light, making his first start since winning the Nearctic Handicap (Can-II) at Woodbine in October 2005, returned $5.80 and $4 in an encouraging return for trainer Christophe Clement. The exacta paid $40.40. Old Dodge, ridden by Mark Guidry, was $4 to show. Old Dodge ran second in the 2006 Appleton.

It was 1 1/4 lengths back to Gin and Sin in fourth. He was followed by Kiss the Kid, Tiganello, Giant Wrecker and Better Than Bonds. Ecclesiastic scratched.

(Chart, Equibase)

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