Get Stormy , making his first start since he was eased out of the TVG Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) last fall, led throughout in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap Feb. 11 for his third grade I win (VIDEO).
Trainer Thomas Bush had Mary Sullivan's millionaire homebred ready to go for his return at odds of 5-2. The front-running 6-year-old son of Stormy Atlantic angled over from his outside post to get control after the start and dictated tepid fractions while staying clear of his rivals. Get Stormy held off Hollinger by a half-length while completing the 1 1/8-mile test over good going in 1:52.78 with a crafty Ramon Dominguez aboard.
“It was not a surprise," Bush said of Get Stormy's comeback win. "He’s a special horse and got a special ride today. I was not concerned about the ground at all. He showed from early in his career he handles soft ground."
A rider's objection over Get Stormy's start, in which he came over on Yankee Fourtune and forced Yummy With Butter to take up briefly, was disallowed by stewards.
Hollinger finished second, with Big Blue Kitten rallying belatedly for third. Silver Medallion, the 7-5 favorite in the field of seven, chased the pacesetter while saving ground in second before giving way on the final turn and fading to last.
There were three scratches out of the Turf Handicap with morning-line pick Boisterous among them, leaving Ft. Lauderdale Stakes (gr. IIIT) winner Silver Medallion a strong choice.
Get Stormy faded to 12th in the BC Mile after setting a pressured pace. But allowed to have his way on the front end this time, there was no catching him. Get Stormy carved out easy splits of :25.62, :51.07, and 1:16.14, and took a two-length lead into the homestretch as Silver Medallion dropped back and Hollinger, ridden by Jose Lezcano, took up the chase.
Hollinger, a length behind at the furlong pole, began to make up ground approaching the wire, but it was too little too late to get to the fully extended Get Stormy, who won under encouragement from Dominguez.
“I was really pleased with how well he relaxed, especially off the layoff," Dominguez said. "He settled into a great stride and handled the ground beautifully. When I called on him he just kept going. He got a little tired late but it was still enough to get the job done.”
The runner-up was two lengths clear of Big Blue Kitten and Julien Leparoux, who came on late to edge Yummy With Butter for the show spot. Paco Lopez, aboard Yummy With Butter, initiated a protest over the start.
The late-developing Get Stormy, who increased his career earnings to $1,496,197, is coming off a tremendous 2011 campaign. He won both the Maker's Mark (gr. IT) at Keeneland and the Turf Classic (gr. IT) at Churchill Downs, and was narrowly defeated when second in the Keeneland's Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. IT) prior to the Breeders' Cup. Get Stormy had been working strongly at Palm Meadows Training Center for his return.
The Kentucky-bred bay is out of the Kiri's Clown mare Foolish Gal.
Bush said that the Maker’s 46 Mile (gr. IT) would be next for Get Stormy.
Get Stormy carried top weight of 121 pounds to his 11th lifetime victory in 27 starts. He ran third in last year's Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap after pressing the pace and drifting out in the lane. He was one length behind the victorious Teaks North.
Sent off as the second choice, Get Stormy paid $7.20, $5.20, and $3, and topped a $44 exacta. Hollinger, who was second in the Ft. Lauderdale for trainer Roger Attfield, returned $7.80 and $3.60. Big Blue Kitten, winner of the Hall of Fame Stakes (gr. IIT) at Saratoga last summer, was $3.40 to show.
Yummy With Butter was followed by Kindergarden Kid, Yankee Fourtune, and Silver Medallion.
Trainer Todd Pletcher, who became the newest member of the 3,000-win club earlier in the day, said he would regroup with Silver Medallion.
“Even though he was in good position I was kind of concerned because it looked like he was off the bridle and through those kind of fractions normally he’d be tugging along a little bit," Pletcher said. "The turf was a little too soft for him today."
Al Khali, who ran in the Donn Handicap (gr. I) a race earlier, and Smart Bid , runner-up in last year's Turf Handicap, were scratched along with Boisterous.