Final Mesa took the lead at the quarter pole and left her rivals behind in the stretch to register her first graded stakes score for Wesley Ward in the $100,000 Old Hat (gr. III) on opening day of the 2011 Gulfstream Park meet Jan. 5 (VIDEO).
With Southern California jockey Joel Rosario aboard, Final Mesa, at odds of 5-2, tallied by 1 3/4 lengths over 34-1 shot Pomeroys Pistol while completing the six-furlong test for 3-year-old fillies in 1:09.75 over a fast dirt track.
Rosario annexed Gulfstream's opening feature of the year before a crowd of 7,358. The native of the Dominican Republic captured all three graded stakes on opening day at Santa Anita Dec. 26.
Owned and trained by Ward, the victorious New York-bred daughter of Sky Mesa won for the fourth time in five starts, all at different tracks. She boosted her career earnings to $202,377 with the winning share of $60,000. The bay filly was making her first start since finishing sixth with Rosario aboard her in Del Mar's Sorrento Stakes (gr. III) Aug. 6.
Final Mesa quickly advanced into contention while racing three wide on the backstretch behind the early pacesetter It's Me Mom, who traversed the opening quarter-mile in a swift :21.60. Final Mesa, still on the outside of two rivals, made her bid to get the lead at the half-mile point in :44.10. She nursed a half-length lead into the lane.
Pomeroys Pistol, ridden by Paco Lopez, took over second from 7-5 favorite Quantum Miss and made a run at Final Mesa leaving the turn and into the stretch. But Final Mesa had her measured, opening up past the eighth pole and holding sway in deep stretch while drifting in a bit.
“She broke well, but I saw the two other horses (It’s Me Mom and Quantum Miss) going a little quicker, so I just got her into an easy gallop off of them,” said Rosario, who also scored aboard the Ward-trained Gazillion Kisses for a debut victory in the sixth race. “She quickened really well and ran hard through the stretch. I never really panicked in the stretch because my filly was running hard the whole way.”
Pomeroys Pistol gave a game effort to finish second, 5 1/4 lengths ahead of the previously unbeaten Roxy Gap, who was slow into stride after being bumped at the start. Roxy Gap, the narrow 3-2 second choice, was two lengths clear of It's Me Mom, followed by Quantum Miss and Mis Vizcaya.
Final Mesa completed her second win on dirt, both in stakes, after capturing Delaware Park's Polly Drummond in her second start last May. She began her career a month before that with a maiden special weight triumph at Keeneland. She went on to capture the five-furlong My Dear Stakes at Woodbine as the odds-on choice by nearly eight lengths June 26.
She was also favored in the 6 1/2-furlong Sorrento at 9-5 and led on the turn before tiring to finish seven lengths behind the victorious Wickedly Perfect.
“I think she’s a special filly," Ward said. "She might not have liked the track at Del Mar the only time she got beat.
“I was between taking her there or Saratoga, but at the time, I thought her two races on synthetic tracks were even better than her one race on dirt. I like to give my horses six to seven weeks between races. So we’ll look for something here, probably two turns.”
Bred by Carmine Telesca and John Guerrera, Final Mesa sold for $72,000 at Fasig-Tipton's New York Saratoga 2009 Preferred Yearling Sale. She is out of Final Style, by Smart Style.
Carrying 120 pounds for her return, Final Mesa went off as the third choice and paid $7.60, $5.20 and $3.
Pomeroys Pistol, a Florida-bred daughter of Pomeroy trained by Amy Tarrant for Hardacre Farm, returned $22.20 and $5.40. The exacta was $146.
Eugene Melnyk's homebred Roxy Gap, whose previous three victories came by a combine 13 3/4 lengths at Woodbine for leading trainer Mark Casse, was $2.20 to show. The daughter of Indian Charlie had not raced since winning an allowance start Aug. 21.