Doubles Partner showed little effect from a 10-month layoff when he charged home late to register a three-quarters of a length victory in the $150,000 Canadian Turf Stakes (gr. IIIT) March 3 on the Gulfstream Park turf (VIDEO).
Ridden by Julien Leparoux, the stalking Doubles Partner rallied smartly from third in mid-stretch to complete the one-mile event in 1:32.56 on firm going. Trend, a 29-1 longshot who pressed pacesetter Little Mike throughout only to be tagged in the final yards, had to settle for second. The late-running Data Link got up for third.
Little Mike, looking for a repeat win in the Canadian Turf and his fifth consecutive victory, finished fourth as the even-money choice in the field of eight. It was only the second time in seven starts that Little Mike was beaten on the Gulfstream turf course.
Doubles Partner, trained by Todd Pletcher for owner WinStar Farm, was making his first start since a hard-fought third-place effort in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (gr. IT) at Churchill Downs May 7. The 5-year-old bay horse won the Tampa Bay Stakes (gr. IIIT) prior to Woodford Reserve last spring and also captured Churchill's American Turf Stakes (gr. IIT) as a 3-year-old in 2010.
“The horse ran super off the layoff," Pletcher said. "The guys at WinStar did a super job.
"We anticipated Little Mike would go to the lead. There didn’t appear to be much speed but there was a little more than we anticipated. But when (Doubles Partner) kicked in and got clear he finished strong."
Pletcher said he would consult with Elliott Walden at WinStar on the next step for Doubles Partner. He listed the Maker's Mark MIle (gr. IT) at Keeneland April 13 or a return to the Woodford Reserve May 5 at Churchill as likely options.
Arthur I. Appleton bred the winning son of Rock Hard Ten in Florida. He is out of the Rahy mare Serena's Sister, a full sister to champion Serena's Song, a member of the National Racing Hall of Fame. Doubles Partner cost $450,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling in August 2008.
After an even break, Little Mike, angling over from his far outside post for Joe Bravo, gained the advantage over Trend to lead by about one length while carving fractions of :23.98, :47.02, and 1:09.32. Doubles Partner, along the inside, raced near mid-pack.
Trend, with Paco Lopez aboard, upped the pressure on Little Mike rounding the far turn and inched ahead in the stretch as Doubles Partner angled out and took aim at the leaders. Trend put away a determined Little Mike in deep stretch but was immediately tackled by Doubles Partner, who swept past under some firm handling from Leparoux.
"He settled nice and it was a clean trip, which made things pretty easy," Leparoux said. "I was able to move out whenever I wanted and when I asked him he came running.”
Holding second by three parts of a length was Trend. Data Link was along in time for Alex Solis to land third by a head over Little Mike. Beau Choix, Seruni, Mutual Trust, and Perfect Footprint completed the order.
Doubles Partner earned $90,000 for his fifth lifetime win in 12 starts and has now banked $443,960.
The winner carried 117 pounds and paid $9, $5.20, and $4 as the third choice. Trend, in his stakes debut for trainer Mark Frostad, returned $16.80 and $9.60, and completed a $127.20 exacta. In his first start in a graded stakes, Data Link was $4.40 to show for trainer Shug McGaughey.