Winless in nine starts last year, six of them in graded stakes, Sheep Pond Partners and All Pro Racing's Elysea's World broke through with a ground-saving trip to kick off her final season of racing with a neck victory over stablemate Dream Awhile in the $150,000 Suwannee River Stakes (G3T) at Gulfstream Park.
Elysea's World, a 5-year-old Irish-bred mare ridden by Hall of Famer Javier Castellano, completed the 1 1/8-mile distance in 1:47.75 over a firm turf course to edge 4-year-old Dream Awhile, who was a half-length ahead of Ultra Brat.
It was the third Suwannee River victory for Castellano following Sandiva (2015) and Channel Lady (2013) and third for trainer Chad Brown, who won previously with Tammy the Torpedo (2016) and Tottie (2010).
Elysea's World was second in last year's Suwannee River by 1 1/4 lengths to subsequent grade 1 winner Dickinson, part of a 2017 campaign where she never won but finished second or third six times in graded stakes.
"You just hope for a dead heat. Both horses were training well," Brown said. "It's a tough situation right on the wire a nose apart with both horses running so well, but with Elysea's World being the older horse and being the bridesmaid so many times it was a real breakthrough for her in her last year of racing to finally win that graded stake. The way Dream Awhile ran, you can't help but think she's going to have many graded stakes ahead of her in her young career."
California-based Midnight Crossing, a front-running half-length winner over Elysea's World in the Robert J. Frankel Stakes (G3) Dec. 30 at Santa Anita Park, set an uncontested pace of :24.61 for the opening quarter-mile and :48.88 for the half-mile, as Ultra Brat on the inside and Dream Awhile battled in behind with 8-5 favorite Kitten's Roar in the clear on their outside.
Dream Awhile moved up to challenge Midnight Crossing and took over the top spot after they went six furlongs in 1:12.11. Castellano tipped Elysea's World out straightening for home and set his sights on the leader as Ultra Brat dug in up the rail, and the three charged to the wire together.
"She's a horse that likes to come from behind, but today she was placed a little closer. I like the way she broke today and I put her in good spot," Castellano said. "Turning for home, I asked her and she was rolling. She's been a little unlucky lately in her last couple races the way they unfolded. Today, she had a perfect trip."
Elysea's World boosted her bankroll to $423,383 from 17 career starts, while Dream Awhile was making just her third North American start since coming to the U.S. from France last summer. She won the Tropical Park Oaks over Westit Dec. 30 at Gulfstream.
"These two horses both got the trips. Dream Awhile was a little closer than I thought in a good way. I was hoping she'd leave out of there and assert herself and she did. Elysea's World didn't quite get the break again that we had hoped," Brown said. "She's not too good from the gate, but Javier found a way to tuck in and be about two wide most of the way and waited patiently on the turn. I think that was the difference right there. He waited until they straightened away to tip her out and it conserved just enough horse to get up.
"It's her last year of racing and she's been so close particularly last year, she ran some terrific races in graded stakes and couldn't win with tough trips and such," he added. "For her to win today it meant a lot to her value, and Dream Awhile is a horse that we haven't run too many times. She's still young and I think she has a bright future ahead of her."