Jay's Way has shown trainer Armando De La Cerda the bigger the fight, the more he responds. So when the 5-year-old son of Gone Astray had the lead snatched away by Mr. Jordan on the far turn of the Jan. 20 Sunshine Millions Classic Stakes at Gulfstream Park, his conditioner was feeling pretty certain his charge actually had his foes right where he wanted them.
"I know this horse likes competition, and when I saw that horse come next to him I said, 'I hope they keep going like they did last time,' " said De La Cerda, referencing a narrow win by Jay's Way over graded winner J Boys Echo on the Gulfstream surface Dec. 26. "When he sees another horse around him, he fights back because he wants to be in front."
Just as the dark bay horse battled back late to win that allowance test in December, his grit spelled heartache for another graded stakes winner Saturday when he re-rallied in deep stretch to edge Mr. Jordan by a half length in the $200,000 test for Florida-breds.
Having spent the majority of his 20-race career in the allowance ranks, Midwest Thoroughbreds' Jay's Way collected his first career stakes win—and did it in dramatic fashion. With Emisael Jaramillo in the saddle, Jay's Way took control of the 1 1/8-mile race from the start, leading the six-horse field through the opening quarter-mile in :23.43 as Richard the Great sat off his hip in second. Those top two were still in place when the half-mile went in :47.50 but Mr. Jordan was looming and made his surge to the front around the turn to take a short lead at the head of the lane with a five-wide move.
Trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. had expressed concern the nine-furlong distance was just beyond Mr. Jordan's scope. The worry proved legitimate as the ivory-colored even-money favorite couldn't put enough daylight between himself and Jay's Way in the stretch and was reeled back in by the latter in the final strides.
"The last time he ran, I told Jaramillo try to go to the front because that's the way he likes it," De La Cerda said. "He ran very good. This time, the same thing. Jaramillo said, 'I guess I've got to go in front.' I said, 'Yeah, try to push him and go in front.' Everything worked out. Jaramillo rode him perfect."
Sent off at 4-1 odds, Jay's Way covered the distance in 1:50.12 over a fast track to earn his sixth win from 20 starts. Mr. Jordan, who is now 0-for-10 lifetime at Gulfstream Park, earned his fifth runner-up finish at the Hallandale Beach track—including a second-place effort in the 2016 Sunshine Millions Classic.
Out of the Salt Lake mare Charms Way, Jay's Way was bred by Jim Davis and was purchased by Midwest Thoroughbreds for $50,000 from Shadybrook Farm's consignment to the 2015 Ocala Breeders' Sales March 2-year-olds in training sale.
Jay's Way was making his fourth start for De La Cerda since being transferred from trainer Danny Gargan's stable in New York.
"I think we'll stay in Florida. There's good money right here in Florida," De La Cerda said.