Pisces edges North East Bound in the Appleton.

Pisces edges North East Bound in the Appleton.

AP/Gulfstream Park photo

Gulfstream Park Race Report: Pisces Rising

Published in the Jan. 12 issue of The Blood-Horse
When he perused the entries for Gulfstream's Jan. 5 Appleton Handicap (gr. IIT), trainer Mohammed Moubarak was especially familiar with one of the entrants. "I think Tubrok is the horse to beat," he said of the 5-year-old son of Rahy, the second choice of 10 runners owing, in part, to the powerful connections of trainer Bill Mott and rider Jerry Bailey.

The 35-year-old Moubarak had conditioned Tubrok for long-time client Mahmoud Fustok's Buckram Oak Farm for the first 17 of his 19 starts. In his final outing for the trainer, Tubrok nearly pulled a 27-1 upset in Saratoga's Fourstardave Handicap (gr. IIT) before finishing second behind Dr. Kashnikow. But shortly after that race, Moubarak began to disperse the nearly 40 horses he had in training for Buckram Oak while he prepared for a career as Buckram Oak's racing manager. His stable is now down to just eight runners: seven for Buckram Oak, and Gary Shapiro's Diamond C Stable's Pisces. "I'm winding it down and I should be completely out of training within the next months," he said.

If so, the Appleton was a great parting gift served a la a phenomenal ride by jockey Roger Velez aboard Pisces in the mile event. The veteran rider kept Pisces, a 5-year-old son of Prized, on the hedge and well-back during the first six of the eight furlongs while Conormara, making only his second U.S. start after racing in Ireland, battled for the lead with North East Bound. The splits--consistent quarter-miles that the duo rang-up in :24.60, :24.76, and :24.66--were moderate over a turf course that, while rated "good," may have leaned more towards soft.

Turning for home, North East Bound relieved Conormara of the lead. Pisces, still on the inside and with only one horse beat, was leaning into the bit. "I knew I had a lot of horse but I had nowhere to go," said Velez, describing a creative stretch run that took him inside of Tubrok and then outside of Mr. Livingston, Broadway Snowman, Sejm's Madness, and eventual third-place finisher Capsized. "So I just waited and waited and waited. At the quarter pole it was just a matter of whether I could get clear, but he did at the eighth pole and he just exploded."

North East Bound, in an effort that reminded his trainer, Bill Perry, of his game second in the 2000 Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) to War Chant, would not yield, but Pisces finally ran him down in the final strides for a head victory, accomplished in 1:39.41. The favored Gary Tanaka entry of Irish-breds Tijiyr and Spindrift finished fourth and fifth, respectively, with no obvious excuses.

"That was special," declared Shapiro, describing the patience required in transforming his $200,000 purchase into a stakes winner. The self-described entrepreneur, a resident of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, had been active at Keeneland's July 1998 yearling sale but had been forced to retire the majority of the runners. "He's the only one I have in training now," he added of the Appleton winner.

Pisces had shown promise while finishing second behind eventual multiple graded stakes winner King Cugat in his August 1999 debut, but proceeded make six more starts before finally breaking his maiden. His career highlights since were three conditioned allowance wins. "They say that a horse makes a big jump in going from a 3-year-old to a 4-year-old, but sometimes it's even bigger from four to five," said Moubarak. "He's still just a big immature horse that's learning a little bit and getting better every race. I was quietly confident today."

Maybry's Spectacular Bid
While trainer Shug McGaughey already has a Triple Crown contender in the barn in the form of November's Remsen Stakes (gr. II) winner Saarland, the victory by Maybry's Boy in Gulfstream's opening day Spectacular Bid Stakes (gr. III) may make it a pair.

Making his sixth career start in the six-furlong sprint on Jan. 3, Randy Hill's Maybry's Boy overcame an outward break and settled into last-place under John Velazquez before moving into a challenging position four-wide rounding the turn. He moved alongside Showmeitall near the eighth pole and lengthened his stride dramatically for a 1 1/4-length win over that rival, timed in 1:12.19.

"All of his races have been good," said McGaughey, while thumbing through past-performances that included three solid, albeit winless, starts before a Nov. 17 maiden breaker. "He's still a little green but he's learning how to run and getting better at it."

Though his breeding--a son of Broad Brush out of the Alydar mare Aly's Conquest--would seem to scream for route racing, Maybry's Boy has yet to race around two turns. "They've been after me to stretch him out," said the trainer. "But I knew where he was in his training and I felt like if we stretched him out now he might not have the same kick."

McGaughey indicated the Feb. 2 Hutcheson Stakes (gr. II) at seven furlongs would be his next start. "And then if all goes well, we can try him around two turns and see what we've got."

Maybry's Boy earned $60,000 towards his $220,000 purchase price from the 2000 Keeneland September yearling sale for Hill, a New York investment banker. The owner bought his first three horses at that sale, but the Spectacular Bid winner is the only one to have started.

"I've been going to Saratoga for years and I always loved the game," he said. "I had just done a good deal on Wall Street so I decided to get involved as an owner."

Gulfstream Notes
Batique won her second consecutive grade III start in South Florida in the Jan. 4 Honey Fox Handicap, scoring by 2 3/4 lengths over My Sweet Westly in the 1 1/16-mile race conducted over firm turf. Jorge Chavez was in the irons for trainer Michael Matz and his mother-in-law, breeder/owner Helen Groves...With throngs of fans of pop star Bryan Adams filling the grandstand on Appleton Day, Gulfstream drew its third-highest attendance ever for a card that did not include the Florida Derby. Only the 32,532 that came out to watch Sailor win the Gulfstream Park Handicap on March 17, 1956, and the 31,831 on hand for opening day Jan. 3, 1999, exceeded the 29,889 that came out on Jan. 5..."We're on our way to making new horseplayers," said Gulfstream Park president Scott Savin, noting that $23 was wagered by the average fan that was lured by the Bryan Adams show...Lucille Conover's homebred A New Twist indeed showed a new twist by taking the measure of rival Forest Heiress by an easy 3 1/2 lengths in the $100,000 Old Hat Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on Jan. 6. In her prior start, the John Kimmel-trainee could get no closer to Forest Heiress than three lengths in Aqueduct's Valley Stream Stakes (gr. III). Edgar Prado rode the daughter of Storm Cat out of the grade I-winning mare Twist Afleet that Kimmel said "reminds me a lot of her mother."  

(Chart, Equibase)