Spring At Last bounds to victory in the Donn.<br><a target="blank" href="http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/photo-store?ref=http%3A%2F%2Fpictopia.com%2Fperl%2Fgal%3Fprovider_id%3D368%26ptp_photo_id%3D3467319%26ref%3Dstory">Order This Photo</a>

Spring At Last bounds to victory in the Donn.
Order This Photo

Coglianese Photos

Spring At Last Comes Back in Donn

Godolphin Mile winner nabs Feb. 2 Gulfstream Handicap for trainer Doug O'Neill.

Spring At Last had only one start under his belt after winning the Godolphin Mile (UAE-II) last March, and that was a Dec. 26 allowance race over the Santa Anita turf. But Doug O’Neill had no qualms about sending the Silver Deputycolt into the $500,000 Donn Handicap (gr. I) (VIDEO) off that win, and the trainer’s faith was rewarded when his 4-year-old runner returned with a solid victory at Gulfstream Park Feb. 2.

Lightly considered by the bettors at odds of 6-1, Spring At Last led a surprising trio of finishers in the 1 1/8-mile event. The Todd Pletcher-trained A.P. Arrow closed for second and longshot Kiss the Kid held on for third, while Brass Hat was fourth and 3-5 favorite Daaher faded to a troubled seventh in the eight horse field.

Breaking from post two and second at the start under Eibar Coa, Spring At Last dropped back and settled into a ground-saving position in fourth on the rail while Daaher battled with Kiss the Kid for an early lead.

“He broke perfect from the gate, but I was a little worried because he was a little sharp at the beginning," Coa said. "He was about a half-length too close, but then he came back to me."

They ran through fractions of :22.95 and :46.26 with the Todd Pletcher-trained Fairbanks also running close to the pace. After going three-quarters in 1:09.72, Daaher tired and Spring At Last angled to the outside, taking the lead at the head of the stretch. Running down to the wire, he held off A.P. Arrow to win by a half-length in 1:48.35. 

“Eibar rode him so brilliantly,” O’Neill said. “He took advantage of a good post and saved all the ground in the world on the first turn. We’re very excited. We all needed to see (that performance) before he stamped himself as a classic distance horse. I definitely have to discuss it with (owners) Mr. (Paul) Reddam and the WinStar people, but I have a feeling at the end of our discussion he’s going back to Dubai, with a very strong possibility being the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I).”

Spring At Last flashed brilliance in Dubai with a solid 2 ¾-length win in the Godolphin, but was sidelined with an ankle issue for several months following that victory. From the same family as grade I contender Sharp Lisa and the grade II-winning Sharp Susan, he has now passed the $1 million mark in purse earnings.

“He had one little flake in an ankle, nothing major, but the team decided to clean it up and give him plenty of time,” said O’Neill. “He’s just an amazing horse, very athletic, and we’re glad to have him back.”

Earning his first grade I stakes victory for J. Paul Reddam and WinStar Farm, Spring At Last returned $14, $5.40, and $4.80 to win. A.P. Arrow and jockey Ramon Dominguez brought $4.40 and $3.80 to place, while Kiss the Kid paid $13 to show under Eddie Castro. The trifecta returned a tidy $1,197.20.

Bred in Kentucky by WinStar out of the Dynaformermare Winter’s Gone, Spring At Last is a half-brother to grade I winner Sharp Lisa, who was also trained by O’Neill, and to grade II winner Sharp Susan. He now owns a career record of 5-2-2 from 12 lifetime starts and has earned $1,137,650. At the end of his racing career, he will be retired to stud at WinStar Farm.

Of the seventh-place finish of Daaher, who shipped to Florida from New York, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said it was obvious something went wrong.

"It’s very disappointing," McLaughlin said. "The jock said it felt like he overheated. With the heat in Florida, coming down here, these things can happen. Right now he’s walking OK and we’ll scope him soon. Hopefully, we’ll live to fight another day."

(Chart, Equibase)