Gottcha Gold often likes to set the pace, but the Centaur Farms Florida homebred stalked his way straight to the winner’s circle March 15 in the $150,000 Skip Away Handicap (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park.
The win, the 5-year-old's eighth, came after a dismal ninth-place finish in the Sunshine Millions Classic at Santa Anita Jan. 26. Trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. said the Coronado's Quest runner did not handle the Cushion Track well in that event, and hoped the colt would revert to the positive form he showed in a second-place finish behind Corinthian in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile last October.
“I told Chuckie (Lopez) before the race to pay absolutely no attention to that horse (Mr. Umphrey) if he goes out on the lead," Plesa said. "I said ‘Act like he isn’t even in the race. Let our horse run his race,’ and that’s the way it worked. This win is especially important. It helps you forget about the trip to California where nothing went right. We’ll take him back to Monmouth (Park) this summer, knock on wood, if all goes well. It’s a great place to be and leaves you lots of options to ship to important stakes anywhere in the Northeast.”
Although the 1 1/8-mile Skip Away featured a field of eight, the top two finishers were in front from the start as 40-1 shot Mr. Umphrey led through early fractions of :23.01 and :45.61. Gottcha Gold, under C.C. Lopez, was two lengths back in second while Pop Goes the Tiger tracked inside in third and the favorite, Frost Giant, raced fourth through three-quarters in 1:09.41.
Mr. Umphrey maintained his lead through the final turn, and it was not until the early stretch that Gottcha Gold took over after a mile in 1:36.39. He drew away to win by 3 ½ lengths in a final time of 1:51.31. Mr. Umphrey was second and Hunting got up for third after trailing the field until the stretch. Frost Giant, Indy Wind, Better Than Bonds, Dr. Pleasure, and Pop Goes the Tiger completed the order of finish.
Sent off at odds of 3-1, Gottcha Gold returned $8.20, $5.20, and $3.20. Mr. Umphrey and Mario Madrid paid $26.60 and $11, while Hunting brought $3.20 under Kent Desormeaux.
Out of the Pleasant Tap mare Gottcha Last, Gottcha Gold now has an 8-4-1 record from 25 starts, with earnings of $777,420.