Sing Praises darted from the starting gate to grab an uncontested early lead en route to victory in the $100,000 Dr. Fager Stakes (VIDEO), giving trainer Stanley Gold and owner/breeder Jacks or Better Farm a sweep of both Florida Sire Stakes events held Aug. 9 at Gulfstream Park.
Earlier in the day, Gold saddled Leap Year Luck for a victory in the $100,000 Desert Vixen Stakes for fillies (VIDEO), giving Gold and Jacks or Better Farm their 13th Florida Sire Stakes success. Sing Praises' wire-to-wire triumph at 1-2 odds subsequently put his trainer in the elite company of Frank Gomez at the top of the FSS standings for trainers with 14 victories.
"I'm in good company," Gold said. "We'll put an asterisk there, because it's a new series, a new place and a new time."
Hear No Evil, the sire of both Sing Praises and Leap Year Luck also completed a sweep Saturday.
The Florida Sire Stakes, inaugurated in 1982 as the Florida Stallion Stakes, was hosted for the first time by Gulfstream Saturday. Gold saddled the first two finishers in each of the stakes for 2-year-olds sired by nominated stallions standing in Florida.
Sing Praises, under jockey Ramsey Zimmerman, was chased along the backstretch by stablemates Of Course and Social Media. The heavy choice in a field of eight juveniles continued to show the way around the turn and into the stretch before sprinting away from his pursuers. Of Course, ridden by Edgard Zayas, made a sustained stretch run but could get no closer than 1 3/4 lengths while second best.
"I was home free (at the top of the stretch). I had so much horse. It was awesome," Zimmerman said. "I went on an easy lead and kept him relaxed and moved when we got to the head of the lane. I never did hit him, so he probably still had some horse left."
Sing Praises ran six furlongs in 1:11.38 while reprising his easy front-running victory in the Birdonthewire Stakes at 5 1/2 furlongs July 12. Of Course finished 3 1/4 lengths clear of third-place finisher Jaiden's Best.
"He ran right back to his last race. He broke good and was well in reserve and had plenty left. He went 57-and-change for five-eighths and kept going," Gold said. "Of Course was inching up to him but he wasn't going to catch him. Ramsey had him measured."
Gold said both Sing Praises and Of Course would be pointed toward the $250,000 Affirmed Stakes, the second leg of the Florida Sire Stakes Sept. 6 at Gulfstream. The Affirmed will be accompanied by the $250,000 Susan's Girl for fillies Sept. 6. The FSS series will conclude Oct. 4 with the $350,000 In Reality and the $350,000 My Dear Girl for fillies.
Sing Praises is out of the Awesome Of Course mare Sacred Psalm.
Gold and Jacks or Better Farm have pulled off three FSS sweeps with Jackson Bend (2009), Awesome Feather (2010), and Fort Loudon (2011).
Earlier on the card, Gold expressed mixed emotions following the Desert Vixen despite Leap Year Luck's 4 3/4-length triumph at odds of 13-1.
His filly Standard Deal faded in the final stages of the six-furlong race to be a well-beaten second after getting into a speed duel with Stonestreet Stables' Katie's Kiss in the early going. It worked to the benefit of Leap Year Luck, however.
"I thought she'd finish a little bit stronger than she did," Gold said of Standard Deal. "But I was first and second, and I would have been second and first. I'm not going to complain about that."
Ridden by Jesus Rios, Leap Year Luck outran both her odds and her stablemate in the Desert Vixen, which was her first career victory. The 2-year-old daughter of Hear No Evil and Lucky of Course, by Awesome of Course, had yet to break her maiden before making her stakes debut. She finished fifth, beaten 22 lengths, in her first race May 16 before being beaten by a neck in her second try July 19.
"Her last race, she showed that she might belong," Gold said. "She moved up big when we increased the distance and put blinkers on, and she ran consistent. She didn't disappoint us."
A quick pace set Leap Year Luck up for victory after the filly was 6 1/2 lengths back in the race's early stages. Standard Deal and Katie's Kiss set fractions of :22.09 for the first quarter and ran the first half-mile in :45.15 seconds, a pace neither filly could sustain. As the two leaders faded in the stretch, Leap Year Luck closed five-wide and was unchallenged to the finish in the final sixteenth. The final time for the six furlongs was 1:11.74.
"She was going easy, and at the three-eighths pole, she really kicked in," Rios said of Leap Year Luck. "The pace set up really good for her."
Leap Year Luck paid $28.80 to win. Miss Amalita, the post-time favorite, didn't fire and finished fifth.