Al Shaqab Racing's Sandiva vied for command early and stayed on the pace before she took the lead off the turn and galloped away unchallenged to win the $150,000 Marshua's River (gr. IIIT) Jan. 9 at Gulfstream Park.
Video: Marshua's River S. (G3T)
The 5-year-old daughter of Footstepsinthesand won by 1 1/2 lengths from closing A Little Bit Sassy, with Tuttipaesi a length away in third in the field of nine older fillies and mares. As the even-money favorite, Sandiva finished the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:42.04 and added a fourth graded or group win to her record.
Ridden by Javier Castellano for trainer Todd Pletcher, both finalists for Eclipse Awards in their respective categories, Sandiva returned $4.40, $3, and $2.40, and A Little Bit Sassy paid $11.80 and 5.80. Tuttipaesi returned $3.40 to show.
Sandiva's victory marked the first of two graded stakes wins on the Gulfstream card for the team of Sheikh Joaan's Al Shaqab Racing, Pletcher, and Castellano. Three races later, Mshawish captured the Hal's Hope Stakes (gr. III) by a neck.
The Marshua's River began as a three-horse contest, as Sandiva dueled with Quiet Kitten and Devine Aida through fractions of :23.95 for the opening quarter, :48.29 for the half, and 1:12.11 for six furlongs. From there, she easily shook free of Quiet Kitten and opened a two-length advantage into the stretch to secure the win.
"I didn't expect to be on the lead, but the way she did it, she was very sharp today," Castellano said. "I was very impressed with the way she did it because she had never been on the lead. I didn't expect to be close to the pace behind the horses.
"The way I handicapped, the other two horses had the speed and she showed it today. The filly was training so well today and Todd Pletcher said put the horse where she belonged. He told me don't take it away if it comes easy. If you find yourself on the lead, go ahead. I think she was much the best today."
Sandiva entered with two stakes wins over the Gulfstream course. She landed the 2014 Tropical Oaks and the 2015 Suwannee River (gr. IIIT), followed by a neck second in the Honey Fox (gr. IIIT). She came off a five-month layoff to finish third in the My Charmer (gr. IIIT) Nov. 21 at Gulfstream Park West last time out. Saturday's triumph improves her record to 7-2-2 from 18 starts, which includes a pair of group wins in England and France.
Sandiva was bred in Ireland by Denis McDonnell from the Mark of Esteem mare Miss Corinne. She sold to Bobby O'Ryan and Middleham Park for £18,000 ($28,476) at the 2012 Doncaster premier yearling sale and has earned $569,537 in her racing career thus far. After she won her first two starts at age 2 for Middleham Park Racing, including a stakes a Naas, Sandiva was purchased privately by Nicolas de Watrigant's Mandore Agency for Sheikh Joaan.
Hope Cross finished fourth in Marshua's River, followed by Partisan Politics, Strike Charmer, Devine Aida, Quiet Kitten, and Shanon Nicole to complete the order of finish. Can't Explain, Gamblers Rose, and Stiffed, all main-track only entrants, were scratched.