Town & Country Racing and Spendthrift Farm's Third Day raced fourth early in the field of five 3-year-olds trying the one-turn mile in the Just One More Stakes, restricted to 3-year-olds who had never won a stakes.
Jockey John Velazquez asked Third Day for his best in the turn and the son of Bernardini responded, quickly surging into second before gradually reeling in early leader Barry Karafin Bets in the stretch.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, Third Day edged Barry Karafin Bets by a neck, completing the mile test in 1:36.96.
Wednesday's race marked the first start for Third Day since he won his debut in a July 31 maiden race at Monmouth Park. Third Day registered a 2 1/4-length victory in that race, completing 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:04.19.
In preparing for his first start in more than six months, Third Day worked four times in January at Palm Beach Downs—earning the bullet in three of those moves.
"The horse had been training very well. He showed a lot of promise in his debut and he needed a little time after that," Pletcher said. "We were optimistic being a son of Bernardini and out of a Street Cry mare that the distance would be OK for him.
"We were just hoping we had him tight enough to go a mile off the layoff and I thought he handled that part of it well. He's still learning and still a little green, but considering the layoff and the stretch out in distance, I thought it was very encouraging."
Next up for Third Day is a shot in a two-turn Triple Crown prep, Pletcher said. Gulfstream hosts the $400,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) at 1 1/16 miles March 4 and the $1 million Florida Derby (G1) at 1 1/8 miles April 1.
"He'll come back in one of those stakes, we just don't know which one," Pletcher said. "There's a lot of options this time of year. I think he's a colt where we can look at those kind of possibilities."
Third Day was sent off the even-money favorite and returned $4.20, $2.60, and $2.10 across the board. Steven Dwoskin's Barry Karafin Bets held second, paying $3.20 and $2.20 to place and show. Gelfenstein Farm's Basha picked up third and returned $2.10 to show.
The current owners of Third Day went to $575,000 to land him from the De Meric Sales consignment at last year's Ocala Breeders' Sales Company March sale of 2-year-olds in training. Third Day previously sold for $150,000 at the 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale.