Spook Express (5), with Mike Smith riding, edges out favorite Gaviola (1) and Jerry Bailey to win the $100,000 Suwannee River Handicap at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Fla. Sunday, Feb. 18, 2001.

Spook Express (5), with Mike Smith riding, edges out favorite Gaviola (1) and Jerry Bailey to win the $100,000 Suwannee River Handicap at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Fla. Sunday, Feb. 18, 2001.

Associated Press/ Equi Photo/ Bill Denver

Spook Express Upsets Gaviola in Suwannee River Handicap

Spook Express rallied from last place to overtake pacesetter Gaviola in the deep stretch, winning the $100,000 Suwannee River Handicap (gr. IIIT) by a half-length Sunday at Gulfstream Park. The win was the second straight graded stakes win for the 1998 South African champion.

Odds-on favorite Gaviola opened a two-length lead over Megans Bluff on the backstretch and continued on the lead into the stretch while chased by Solvig and Windsong. Spook Express moved up to fourth in mid-stretch before making up nearly four lengths in the final furlong. Gaviola finished second, a neck ahead of Windsong. Solvig came home fourth, followed by Lady Dora, Tippity Witch, Orange Sunset, and Megans Bluff.

Spook Express, guided by Mike Smith, completed the 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.28 on firm turf. Earlier in the Gulfstream meet, Spook Express earned a similar half-length win in the Honey Fox Handicap (gr. IIIT). Spook Express was South Africa's champion 3-year-old filly of 1998. As a 3-year-old, Spook Express won eight of nine races in South Africa, finishing second in her lone defeat. Spook Express (Comic Blush--Park Walk, by Green Dancer) was bred in South Africa by Jack Syndicate.

Spook Express earned $60,000 for the win, her 12th in 16 career races. She is trained by Thomas J. Skiffington for Kinloch Entrprises.

Sent off as the third choice in the wagering at 7-1, Spook Express returned $15.60, $5.40, and $4.60. Gaviola paid $3 and $2.80. Windsong was worth $6 to show. The winning exacta combination paid $44.40. (Chart, Equibase)