David Staudacher's Conquest Windycity set a demanding pace and had something left to hold off Mind Your Biscuits through the final sixteenth of a mile and spoil the multiple grade 1 winner's 5-year-old debut Feb. 9 at Gulfstream Park.
Sent off at 16-1 in the $53,000 optional-claiming allowance that also marked the return of previously undefeated grade 3 winner One Liner, Conquest Windycity ran seven furlongs in 1:21.64 over a fast main track to win by a head over the 2-5 betting favorite.
It was the first start for Mind Your Biscuits, whose ownership group includes trainer Chad Summers, since he finished second to Sharp Azteca in the Cigar Mile Handicap Presented by NYRA Bets (G1) Dec. 2 at Aqueduct Racetrack. The New York-bred son of Posse also lost his 2017 opener in the Gulfstream Park Sprint Stakes (G3) by a neck last winter before he went on to a dramatic victory in the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen Sponsored by Gulf News (G1) at Meydan.
"He wanted to run. He wanted to do something. He'd had four works, and one (was) five-eighths. Conquest Windycity's been running, and One Liner had 11 works coming into it," Summers said of Mind Your Biscuits. "They flew, they went the opening quarter in :23 and change, and then they really picked it up. We're going to come out of this race and we're going to be real good out of this race. I'm not really disappointed at all. There's bigger fish to fry overseas."
Jockey Jose Ortiz sent Conquest Windycity to the lead and sizzled through an opening quarter-mile in :23.34 and a half-mile in :45.36. He was tracked by One Liner, with Mind Your Biscuits in the clear three wide. Mind Your Biscuits put away One Liner at the top of the stretch and set his sights on Conquest Windycity, who straightened for home in front after six furlongs in 1:08.85.
Ridden by Ortiz's brother, Irad Ortiz Jr., Mind Your Biscuits ranged up on Conquest Windycity's right flank past the eighth pole to mount a challenge, but could not get past the stubborn longshot, who finished third in last year's Pimlico Special Handicap (G3) and was making his second start since being claimed by trainer Mike Maker.
"He broke really well and I was able to be on the lead on my own, and I think that helped my horse a lot. He gained a lot of confidence in himself, and when Mind Your Biscuits got to him at the sixteenth pole, he dug in and fought hard," Jose Ortiz said. "I have a lot of respect for the big horse. Last year he lost here and then he won in Dubai very impressively. Moving forward I hope he does the same thing."
Summers said the plan is to make a title defense in the Golden Shaheen, with a possible tune-up in the Gulfstream Park Sprint at 6 1/2 furlongs March 3.
"We'll just play it by ear. He'll tell me," Summers said. "We'll be nominated to the Gulfstream Park Sprint. It's back a little quick. It's three weeks, but if he's ready and he wants to go, we go. If not we've got seven weeks to Dubai."
One Liner had not run since he took the Southwest Stakes (G3) in February of 2017, which was his third win in as many starts. He finished five lengths behind the top two in third, followed by Todd Pletcher-trained stablemate Big Daddy (CHI) and Berliner.
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