Edmund Gann’s Ikigai scored for the fifth time in eight starts and captured his first graded stakes, as he drew away for an easy 2 1/4-length victory in the $100,000 Mr. Prospector Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO) Jan. 17 at Gulfstream Park.
Facing a good field of sprinters, including grade/group I winners Black Seventeen and Kelly’s Landing, Ikigai stalked the early pace, took over around the turn and was never seriously challenged while romping down the stretch under Jermaine Bridgmohan. The 4-year-old son of Whywhywhy completed six furlongs in a final time of 1:09.37 on the ‘fast’ main track.
Lael Stable’s Rollers was second, 3 1/4 lengths in front of Black Seventeen, who stumbled at the start. He’s So Chic, the 2-1 favorite, finished fourth in a field of seven.
“I really loved him today,” said trainer Marty Wolfson. “I looked at the race and didn’t see that much speed. He’s a very fast horse. He’s come a long way. I ran him for $32,000 (claiming) the first time I ran him after he was sent to me (last summer). Thank goodness nobody took him. The only time he got beat since I’ve had was when he was eliminated at the gate (stumbled).
“I would think he’ll go seven-eighths. I don’t know what’s next, but we’ll definitely look ahead to the Smile Sprint (Calder) this summer.”
Ikigai won in his 2009 debut after winning four times as a sophomore. All of them came at Calder, including a narrow victory in the Kaiser Stakes in October. The chestnut colt has now earned $130,308.
In the Mr. Prospector, Ikigai was second through early going, settling in perfect stalking position behind pacesetter Granizo, who clicked off a :22.63 opening quarter. Ikigai took over before the half-mile marker (:45.46) and extended his lead to three lengths at the top of the lane.
Bridgmohan has been aboard for all five of Ikigai’s wins.
“He’s just gotten better and better,” Bridmohan said. “He’s just naturally fast and did what he does. Mr. Wolfson told me not to take anything away from him. Let him go. He responded the whole way – I had a beautiful ride. I never felt in danger of falling out (of contention). I knew we had a pretty good shot at going the whole way.”
Bred in Kentucky by Heberg Hall, Ikigai is out of the Southern Halo mare Contessa Halo.
Kelly’s Landing, the Dubai Golden Shaheen (UAE-I) winner back in 2007, chased the leaders around the turn but had nothing left for the drive and finished last.
The winner paid $17.40, $7.20 and $4.20. The exacta (5-7) returned $73.80, while the $1 trifecta (5-7-4) was worth $177.60.