The winner, bred in Virginia by the late Edward P. Evans, is out of Lyrical Prayer, by The Minstrel. He was a $280,000 Keeneland September sale yearling in 2009. Swagger Jack is a half brother to Tap Dance, winner of the 2001 Bonnie Miss Stakes (gr. II) and third in that year's Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (gr. II).
The win marks a big breakthrough for the 5-year-old Swagger Jack, who ran second in his past two starts at Gulfstream Park: the Feb. 9 Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship Stakes (gr. II) at the Carter trip and the one-mile Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. II). He now has a mark of 5-3-0 from 16 starts.
Consortium and Fort Loudon broke sharply, but it was Consortium who got the early advantage and sprinted out to set a wicked tempo in the seven-furlong Carter of :22.17 and :44.63. He was chased by Brigand, Fort Loudon, and even-money choice Discreet Dancer with Swagger Jack and Sahara Sky staying far off the pace. Swagger Jack, with Irad Ortiz Jr. up, made headway toward the leaders on the turn. He was wide and running hard off the turn.
"I just tried to follow the instructions the trainer told me," Ortiz said. " Everything he told me happened in the race. He told me to break four, five lengths behind the speed and let the speed go. Maybe three horses had speed and I was sitting behind them. At the three-eighths pole, that horse loves to go, so that's what I did, and he started to pick them up pretty quick. It feels great."
In the lane, Consortium gave way as Swagger Jack battled with Discreet Dancer through six furlongs in 1:08.79. Sahara Sky rallied from far back to be gaining on the leader as the field neared the wire. He finished a length in front of Discreet Dancer, who edged Fort Loudon by a neck. Consortium finished fifth and was followed by Brigand. Saturday's Charm was scratched.
"He was fine; that's how he likes to run, a little far back," said rider Joel Rosario of Sahara Sky. "He was closing at the end. Too bad we couldn't catch the winner; we were second-best."
The second-longest price on the board and toting 116 pounds (four less than highweight Sahara Sky), Swagger Jack paid $33.60, $9.90, and $3.70. Sahara Sky paid $4.20 and $2.50 and Discreet Dancer returned $2.20. The 6-4 exacta returned $110 and the trifecta of 6-4-7 paid $249.00.