Making his stakes debut, Karibu Gardens outlasted a strong field to capture the $186,436 Sky Classic Stakes (Can-IIT) over the Woodbine lawn Aug. 16 (VIDEO).
Ridden by Luis Contreras for trainer Josie Carroll, Eugene Melnyk's 4-year-old homebred colt by Flower Alley engaged pacesetter Reporting Star on Money Talker on the outside in the stretch and edged clear approaching the wire. Karibu Gardens, 15-1 on the morning line, prevailed by three-quarters of a length at odds of 5-1 while completing the 1 1/4 miles on firm ground in 2:02.46.
"I had a perfect trip on the outside watching everybody and keeping my horse in the race," said Contreras. "When I asked him to go, he gave me a good kick."
Reporting Star nosed out Money Talker for second in the field of seven older horses, with River Seven fourth. Dynamic Sky was fifth, followed by 2-1 favorite Aldous Snow next. Forte Dei Marmi, seeking an unprecedented third consecutive win in the Sky Classic while toting top weight of 123 pounds, faded to last after advancing into contention at the half-mile pole.
Winless in two prior starts on turf, Karibu Gardens was coming off a victory in an allowance/optional claiming race at nine furlongs over Woodbine's Polytrack July 20. In his previous start three weeks earlier, he was pulled up by Contreras early after taking a bad step and was vanned off the track.
"We think he just took a bad step and Luis, very smartly, felt something not right and pulled him up," explained Carroll. "He came back to the barn in great shape. There was nothing wrong. He breezed well, so we were confident to run him back."
Carroll believes that the lightly raced Karibu Gardens has every right to improve.
"We thought all along there was some potential there," said Carroll. "He's a bit of a character. He doesn't always have his mind on business. Let's hope when he really focuses that we have something nice."
Breaking from the far outside in the compact field, Karibu Gardens rated off the early leaders from off the rail. Reporting Star went to the front for Justin Stein and milked soft quarter mile factions of :26.24, :50.72, and 1:15.20, with Money Talker stalking, and Karibu Gardens and Forte Dei Marmi also prominent.
Reporting Star reached the quarter pole in 1:38.67 in front by half a length as Money Talker, between horses, and Karibu Gardens advanced to challenge in upper stretch. In the long drive to the wire, those three had it to themselves and Karibu Gardens ultimately proved best under encouragement from Contreras.
Karibu Gardens was bred in Kentucky out of Melnyk's stakes-winning Kris S. mare Flower Forest. The dark bay colt is the fifth winner from as many to start for his dam, and her first stakes victor. Among his siblings are $215,357 earner Silver Rock and $234,574 earner Springcourt.
With the victory, Karibu Gardens ran his career line to four wins and a third from eight starts with earnings of $212,731.
Carrying 117 pounds, Karibu Gardens paid $12.30, $7.80, and $5.70 while keying a $96.40. Reporting Star, whose three-race winning streak for trainer Pat Parente came to an end, returned $8 and $6.10. Money Talker paid $8 to show.
Five Iron scratched.