Newtown Anner Stud and Joseph Bulger's Falling Sky won for the first time since the 2013 Sam F. Davis Stakes (gr. III), upsetting the Feb. 8 Gulfstream Park Sprint Stakes (gr. III) by 5 1/2 lengths (VIDEO) just about a year after his last triumph.
Off at odds of 14-1 in the $100,000 event under jockey Luis Saez when the field of 11 sprung the gates at Gulfstream Park, the 4-year-old Lion Heart colt wrested control of the lead from Mr. Prospector Stakes (gr. III) winner Singanothersong and never looked back. Falling Sky set the pace through fractions of :22.61, :44.37, and 1:07.86 en route to a stakes-record final time of 1:20.65 over seven furlongs on the fast track, eclipsing the previous best 1:21 winning time registered by Tour of the Cat in 2003. He came up just shy of the track record, 1:20.65, set by Hilda's Passion in 2011.
Recently brought back off the layup and runner-up by half a length to Donn Handicap (gr. I) threat Revolutionary in a Jan. 11 allowance going a mile at the South Florida oval, Pennsylvania-bred Falling Sky was making his second start of the season.
"That race was actually run faster than the Hal's Hope later in the day," trainer George Weaver said of the effort in which Falling Sky was passed by Revolutionary. "We thought in that race, internally, that he ran a very, very good seven furlongs. He got tired the last 100 yards or so. We're like, 'OK, we went a mile. We'll cut back to seven furlongs and he'll fly.' I didn't know he would fly that high, but he did."
Falling Sky returned $31.60, $13.40, and $8 while Narvaez brought $89.20 and $23.60, with Brujuo de Olleros bringing $4.80. Catron, Singanothersong, Reveron, Laugh Track, Silver Menace, Jackson Bend,Fort Loudon, and Purple Egg completed the order of finish.
The winner took an extended rest after finishing 19th and last of all in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), unraced until a ninth in the City of Laurel Stakes early last November at Laurel Park.
"We knew he would be on the engine. I was hoping to cut out a :45-and-change half and that would give us the best chance to win. When he went :44-and-change, I was a little bit concerned, but by the 3/16ths he was starting to draw off and he had plenty left," said Weaver, who has trained Falling Sky since his return.
Antonio Sano conditioned the colt for his first three starts. John Terranova II took over for the next four after the current connections purchased Falling Sky through agent Justin Casse for $425,000 as a racing or stallion prospect from Off The Hook's consignment at the Ocala Breeders Sales Co.'s January sale in 2013.
Among the bay runner's solid efforts after winning the Feb. 2 Sam F. Davis in the early part of the 3-year-old season were a third behind Verrazano and Java's War in the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) and a fourth in the Arkansas Derby (gr. I). The Gulfstream Park Sprint victory improved his record to 4-1-1 from 10 starts, with earnings of $320,470.
Bred by Copper Penny Stables out of the Sea Hero mare Sea Dragoness, Falling Sky was purchased by Off The Hook, acting as agent for Calixto Armas, for $16,000 from Brookdale Sales, agent for Copper Penny, at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale in 2010.
Weaver said that sprinting would be the focus for Falling Sky with the ultimate goal being the Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park in November.
"I think to go that fast over this track, it was such a performance, it lets us think we can do some big things this year if we can keep him at that level," Weaver said. "This horse has always trained good since I've had him. He's an easy horse to train and he's athletic and quick and an impressive horse to watch breeze."