Badge of Silver, ridden by Jerry Bailey, held off the steady closer Dynever to win the $100,000 Hal's Hope Handicap (gr. III) by a neck at Gulfstream Park Saturday.
The Bobby Frankel-trained 5-year-old son of Silver Deputy
won for the first time in nearly a year as the 2-1 favorite in a tough field of 12.
Badge of Silver missed eight months of action last year, but was coming off probably his best career effort, a second-place finish behind Pico Central in the Cigar Mile (gr. I) at Aqueduct Nov. 27. Owners Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey transferred the grade III winner to Frankel after a fifth-place showing in the General George Handicap (gr. II) in February.
The winning time for the 1 1/8-mile test for older horses was 1:48 2/5 on a fast track.
After stalking the pacesetter Commentator and Pat Day into the far turn, Bailey guided Badge of Silver to the front at the quarter pole. He opened a big lead in the lane and was all out to stay there in the closing strides as the determined Dynever and Jose Santos cut into the advantage with every stride.
"That was a lot of work for just $100,000," Bailey said, noting that he was not concerned about the speed duel with Commentator. "My horse does have a tendency to ease himself up, so I knew I had to keep after him. I thought it was a pretty gutsy effort if you ask me."
Dynever was reserved early while saving ground, angling to the outside for the stretch run and making steady progress. Contante, who made a challenging move in the stretch with Egar Prado aboard as well, settled for third 1 1/4 lengths behind the runner-up. Added Edge finished well back in fourth.
Previously undefeated in five starts, the New York-bred Commentator set fractions for :22 3/5, :45 3/5 and 1:09 4/5 before tiring quickly and finishing seventh as the second choice.
"(Commentator) made it easy on us," Frankel said. "Before the race I was really concerned about Commentator but after I handicapped the race I thought Dynever was the horse to beat. To be honest, when he made that run at us I thought we were beat but (Badge of Silver) just kept sticking his head in front."
Frankel said he may send Badge of Silver to Fair Grounds for his next start.
Badge of Silver, the 10-length winner of the 2003 Risen Star (gr. III) there when he was part of Ronny Werner's barn, improved his record to 5-2-0 in nine lifetime starts with earnings of $329,725. Injuries have kept Badge of Silver from showing that earlier brilliance. In addition to last season's eight-month layoff, he missed nine months of his 3-year-old campaign.
The Kentucky-bred winner was produced by the Silver Hawk mare Silveroo.
He paid $6.40, $3.80 and $3.20, topping a $22.80 exacta with Dynever, who returned $3.80 and $3 as the third favorite in the field. The Argentine-bred Contante, making his second U.S. start, was $7.60 to show.
After Added Edge came, Collateral Damage, Purge, Commentator, Alleged Ruler, The Judge Sez Who, Country Judge, Wake At Noon and Smooth Lover.