On Thin Ice Glides to Hal's Hope Triumph

On Thin Ice, winless in 2005, kicked off his 5-year-old season with his first graded stakes win, romping to a 5 3/4-length victory in the $100,000 Hal's Hope Handicap (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park Saturday.

Ridden for the first time by Shaun Bridgmohan, On Thin Ice raced close to the lead and kicked away from the field at the top of the stretch while never threatened. The gray/roan Tactical Cat gelding completed the 1 1/8-mile distance in 1:48 for his first trip to the winner's circle since Sept. 7, 2004, when he won a $40,000 optional claiming allowance race at Philadelphia Park. The win snapped a seven-race losing streak.

Joseph Orseno trains On Thin Ice for DJ Stable.

A sprinter for most of his 13-race career, On Thin Ice showed surprising tenacity in a second-place finish, one-half length behind Alumni Hall, in the 1 1/8-mile Fayette (gr. III) at Keeneland in his last start Oct. 29.

"This horse was plagued by recurring foot problems," Orseno said. "We took him to Keeneland in the fall and trained him over that new all-weather surface. And his feet kept getting better and better, and stayed that way. We have now been able to train him the way we want. He's never trained better."

The Hal's Hope is a prep for the $500,000 Donn Handicap (gr. I) Feb. 5.

"We said that if he ran good in this race – he didn't necessarily have to win – that we would go on to the Donn Handicap," Orseno said. "Shaun rode a great race replacing Joey (Bravo), who got hurt (Wednesday)."

On Thin Ice improved his record to 5-3-2 with earnings of $170,610.

Third choice in the field of nine older horses, On Thin Ice, paid $12.60, $7.40, and $5.20. Network, with Javier Castellano aboard, returned $10.60 and $5.80. Seek Gold was two lengths behind the runner-up and paid $4.20 to show. Wiggins was fourth.

Favored Philanthropist, breaking from the rail for Edgar Prado, prompted the pacesetter Ricard A through early fractions of :23 and :46 1/5 before fading in the stretch. On Thin Ice took the lead on the far turn after they ran six furlongs in 1:10 3/5 and was soon in control.

"I think it worked out just about the way I thought it would," Bridgmohan said. "We stalked the pace early, and I was able to get him to relax. I rode with confidence and, when we passed the horse in front, he went on about his business in a big way."

After Wiggins in fourth place came Niigon, Dazzling Dr. Cevin, Philanthropist, Itsawonderfulife, and Ricardo A.

(Chart, Equibase)