Trip for A. J., second to Askbut I Won'ttell in the My Charmer Handicap (gr. IIIT) last month, turned the tables in capturing $300,000 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf at Gulfstream Park Jan. 29 (VIDEO).
Jockey John Velazquez got Trip for A. J. to relax off the early pacesetters Speak Easy Gal and Becky's Exchange in fourth and came charging three wide into the stretch to get the lead at odds of 6-1. After opening up a clear advantage approaching mid-stretch, the 4-year-old daughter of Trippi had just enough to hold off the late-running Askbut I Won'ttell while fully extended by a half-length. The winning time for the 1 1/8-mile distance was 1:49.49 over firm going.
“I wanted to try to ease her off the pace a little today," Velazquez said. "I think a mile and an eighth might be a little too far for her so I wanted to reserve as much as I could for the stretch run. It worked perfectly."
Second choice Askbut I Won'ttell closed on the far outside but was drifting out in the final furlong for jockey Shaun Bridgmohan while finishing second by 2 1/4 lengths. Scolara, ridden by Kent Desormeaux, finished third.
The slight 2-1 favorite Dynaslew, who was fractious in the gate, faded on the far turn after tracking the pace on the outside of Trip for A.J. and finished last in the big field of 13 older fillies and mares.
Peter Fuller's Florida homebred Trip for A. J. had an outstanding 3-year-old campaign for trainer Milton Wolfson, winning six of 12 starts. She started the current season with a fading fifth-place finish after prompting the pace in the Marshua's River Stakes (gr. IIIT) on the Gulfstream lawn Jan. 9. That was her first try over the surface.
“She was a little short for her last race," Wolfson noted. "She had an abscess in a foot a couple of weeks before and I was afraid to train her too hard coming up to the race. But we got that cleaned up and were able to get her ready for this one properly. She’s been so exciting to have. She runs on turf or dirt, but I’d rather keep her on turf as long as possible, although I’m not sure what’s next."
The last time she met Askbut I Won'ttell in Calder's My Charmer at 1 1/16 miles Dec. 4, Trip for A. J. set a hotly contested pace at the hedge but failed to last, losing to her rival by three-quarters of a length.
Out of the Explodent mare A. J's Hot Shot, the chestnut filly Trip for A. J. scored the biggest win of her career and improved her lifetime mark to 7-1-1 in 14 starts with earnings of $401,185. The victory was worth $165,000.
Sent off as the distant third choice, the winner carried 120 pounds and paid $14.40, $7.60 and $5.40. Askbut I Won'ttell, in her first start for trainer Chris Block since her My Charmer victory, returned $4 and $3.20 as her two-race winning streak expired. The exacta paid $49.40. Scolara, a three-time winner for trainer Bill Mott in five prior starts on the Gulfstream turf, was $4.80 to show.
Romin Robin finished fourth, followed by Category Seven, Jet Blue Girl, Bran Jammas, Speak Easy Gal, Unbridled Essence, Omega Cat, Becky's Exchange, Granted Tiger and Dynaslew.
Honeymoon Girl and Wild Mia scratched.