Hobeau Farm's homebred Miss Shop shot through a gap along the inside coming off the far turn and turned the $200,000 Rampart Handicap (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park into a stroll while spoiling the return of 2006 Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) winner Round Pond on Sunday.
Huge show payoffs indicated that bridge jumpers took a bath on Round Pond, who failed to hit the board as the 2-5 pick in the short field of six.
The 9-2 third choice, Miss Shop paid $11.40, $6.40, and $14.80. Prop Me Up, a 22-1 outsider, paid $14 and $24 as the runner-up. Swap Fliparoo, the 3-1 second favorite who raced as part of a Hobeau Farm uncoupled entry, was $11.20 to show. Round Pond finished fourth.
Trainer Allen Jerkens played "giant killer" once again, bringing Miss Shop back to the Gulfstream main track just one week after a disappointing fifth-place showing behind the victorious Wait A While in the Honey Fox Handicap (gr. IIIT) on the grass. The 4-year-old Deputy Minister filly won by 6 3/4 lengths while completing the 1 1/8-mile test for older fillies and mares in 1:49 2/5.
Jerkens also saddled Swap Fliparoo, who was coming off a 6 1/2-length win in Gulfstream's Sabin Handicap (gr. III) three weeks ago.
“I decided just this morning at 11 o’clock that we had take the turf shoes that she (Miss Shop) had on from last week off, and put on her flat running shoes," Jerkens said. "I got to thinking that, in case the other horse (Swap Fliparoo) couldn’t go a mile-and-an-eighth, this one (Miss Shop) could. I probably wasn’t going to race her (Miss Shop) again before Belmont, so she was going to have plenty of rest after coming back after a week. This filly’s just good -- period.”
Breaking from the rail under Rafael Bejarano, Miss Shop raced well back in fourth after being caught in tight quarters early. She saved ground as Classy Charm set a modest pace of :23 3/5 and :47 2/5 while pressed by Prop Me Up. Round Pond got away in good order for Edgar Prado and was stalking comfortably in third while off the rail.
On the far turn, Classy Charm fell back quickly before the six-furlong mark was reached in 1:11 4/5 and Round Pond turned up the heat on Prop Me Up, ridden by Joe Bravo. Swap Fliparoo was making an impact on the extreme outside for Javier Castellano as well.
But after clearing Classy Charm, Miss Shop had room along the inside as the leaders reached the head of the stretch. Miss Shop took advantage and was firmly in control mid-stretch as Round Pond faltered. Miss Shop won going away under some urging. Prop Me Up, while no match for the winner, held Swap Fliparoo safe by one length for the place spot. It was 3 1/4 lengths back to Round Pond in fourth, with Tiger Belle and Classy Charm trailing.
Miss Shop began the 2007 season with a victory on the Gulfstream lawn in the Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf, a $500,000 race, prior to the Honey Fox. She ran 14 times in 2006, winning four, including the Turnback the Alarm Handicap (gr. III) at Aqueduct in November. Overall, her record stands at 8-1-4 in 20 starts with earnings of $736,630.
"She broke really sharp and she likes to come from behind," said Bejarano, who rode her in the Sunshine Millions victory. "I took her back, but when (Prop Me Up) and (Round Pond) tired she didn't need much urging to get the lead. It's a thrill to win this race with Mr. Jerkens. What can I say about him ... he's the greatest."
The Rampart was a perplexing race for Fox Hill Farms' 5-year-old mare Round Pond, who had a significant class edge while carrying top weight of 122 pounds, six more than the winner. Round Pond won the BC Distaff at Churchill Downs in November by 5 1/2 lengths at odds of 13-1 for trainer Michael Matz and had performed well after long breaks several times during her career. After making a strong run at Prop Me Up to reach even terms leaving the final turn, she was clearly in trouble as Swap Fliparoo swept past on her outside without much resistance.
“We had a little problem with her in mid-week," Matz said. "She tied up, but seemed okay to go ahead. Still, we got a race into her and, hopefully, can go on from here with the Apple Blossom next if she’s okay.”
The 1 1/8-mile Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I) is April 7 at Oaklawn Park.