Undefeated Gemologist got his 3-year-old campaign underway in sharp fashion at Gulfstream Park March 16, pulling away from grade I winner Currency Swap to win an allowance race by seven lengths (VIDEO).
Ridden by Javier Castellano for trainer Todd Pletcher in the $69,500 event, WinStar Farm's Gemologist ran his unbeaten string to four as the 7-10 favorite in a field of five 3-year-olds. The son of two-time Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) winner Tiznow out of the unraced Mr. Prospector mare Crystal Shard ran the one-turn mile distance in 1:35.95 on a track labeled good.
Pletcher and WinStar teamed up to win the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands in 2010 with Super Saver and appear to be poised for another run with Gemologist. The bay colt was bred in Kentucky by G. Watts Humphrey and Louise Ireland Humphrey Revocable Trust - 2, and was purchased for $310,000 at the 2009 Keeneland Association November Breeding Stock Sale.
After the race, Pletcher said he and WinStar president Elliott Walden would meet soon to discuss options for Gemologist's next race.
"From a time standpoint it will be a race on either April 7 or April 14, and we’ll decide whether it will be better to have four weeks or three weeks to the (Kentucky) Derby (May 5),” he said.
That would apparently rule out the March 31 Florida Derby (gr. I) while making the Arkansas Derby (gr. I) and Toyota Blue Grass (gr. I), both on April 14, more viable options. The Wood Memorial (gr. I) and Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) are both April 7.
Gemologist, who has $103,855 in graded stakes earnings, has already shown a liking for Churchill Downs during his brief career. He won the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (gr. II), as well as an optional claiming event over the track last fall. Both races were at 1 1/16 miles.
In his first start since the Nov. 26 KJC, Gemologist went to the front from his inside post shortly after the start and set an even pace (:24.93, :47.48, 1:11.26). He raced a bit off the rail while about one length in front of Currency Swap, last year's Hopeful Stakes (gr. I) winner.
Gemologist took command on the turn, then extended his advantage to three lengths in the homestretch. He drew off while in hand over the final furlong.
"He came off the layoff with a great performance. He was amazing. He did it on his own. He did it so easy,” Castellano said. “I was very impressed; he did it the right way and he’s heading in the right direction.”
Pletcher added: “We talked about it before the race and thought he might sit behind a horse, but he broke so sharp Javier just let him go on and get into his rhythm.
"Physically, I thought he got everything he needed out of the race that we had hoped for, running a mile in 1:35 and four (4/5) and he galloped out really well."
Currency Swap, sent off at odds of 6-5, was previously unbeaten in two starts and also making his first start of the year for trainer Terri Pompay. The son of High Cotton, owned by Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence, finished five lengths clear of the third-place horse, Angel's Tune.
“He was fine, nice and relaxed," Pompay said afterward. "We just wanted him to lay off (Gemologist), and the pace was a little slow in the beginning. The other horse ran away from him a little bit, but he did everything we wanted. We got the race into him.
“We’ll talk about it (next start) and see how he comes out of this race.”
Gemologist, who has earned $184,855 overall, paid $3.40 to win.