The son of Roman Ruler notched his first stakes win by the narrowest of margins in the six-furlong contest, which was run as a race for 2-year-olds for the first time after Gulfstream opened its meet a month earlier than usual. Joe Rocco Jr. guided him to victory.
The bay colt, sent off as the 6-5 favorite in a field of six, is trained by Tony Dutrow. He shipped from Delaware Park after breaking his maiden by 7 3/4 lengths on Oct. 22.
Ancient Rome was bred in Kentucky by Greg Mascera and Roman Ruler Syndicate, and is out of the Is It True mare Wish It Were. He was purchased for $62,000 at the OBS 2001 Spring sale of 2-year-olds in training. Bo Hunt, agent, consigned the colt.
Ancient Rome raced just behind pacesetter Town Prize, who broke sharply from the outside and was in control through splits of :22.55 and :44.72 under Luis Saez. Town Prize carried a clear lead at the top of the lane, but began tiring in upper stretch and Ancient Rome and For Oby passed him in unison nearing the sixteenth pole.
Ancient Rome, racing to the inside of 11-1 For Oby, forged a narrow advantage in the final yards and held on by a nose after a photo finish. The final time on the fast main track was 1:08.95.
For Oby settled for second under Julio Garcia, two lengths in front of Town Prize.
“At first, I didn’t even think I was going to be able to get by the horse in front (Town Prize)," Rocco said. "When the horse on the outside (For Oby) came running, he had all the momentum and stuck his head in front really fast. If he didn’t go by, I actually don’t think my horse would have fought back.
"He had a lot more left than I thought. Today was amazing. I couldn’t have asked to get off to a better start. Hopefully the snowball keeps on rolling.”
Ancient Rome, who was second in his debut in September at Delaware, upped his earnings to $92,000.
"He’s made everybody associated with this horse feel good about him like he had a future," Dutrow said. "He went from winning a maiden race to a stakes and got that done today.
"I’m not sure what’s next, but we’ll look around. We do feel like he’ll go a little further than this at least, and he’s by Roman Ruler, who had a Belmont winner this year (Ruler On Ice).”
He paid $4.40, $3, and $2.60. For Oby returned $6 and $3, and the exacta (7-6) was worth $28.80. The trifecta (7-6-8) paid $66.
Jordan's Image was fourth, followed by Rex's Last Tourand Vexor. Blings Express and Luke of York were scratched.
Gulfstream’s total handle was up 22.49% over last year’s opening (Wednesday, Jan. 5). On-track handle was up 22.63% over last year and attendance was up 1,166.