It was the sixth win in the last seven starts for the Calder-based 4-year-old, who just two months ago was an unknown commodity but is quickly becoming a household name around the country. Owned and trained by Luis Olivares, Tackleberry was entering the seven-furlong event off a 27-1 upset in the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Classic just two weeks ago at Gulfstream going nine furlongs. The son of Montbrook captured his fourth stakes win in just three months time in the Sprint Championship.
In his previous five most recent wins, the speedy Tackleberry went wire-to-wire under Javier Santiago, but the versatile gelding showed a new dimension this time, pressing pacesetter Gaucho through splits of :22.84 and :45.86. He made his winning move rounding the turn and opened up a two-length lead into the stretch.
Odds-on favorite Soaring Empire and Caixa Eletronica closed ground in deep stretch, but they couldn’t get to the winner, who crossed the wire in a final time of 1:22.84 on a fast track. Soaring Empire, who handed Tackleberry his lone defeat during this stretch in the Jan. 8 Hal’s Hope (gr. III), was a nose better than Caixa Eletronica for second.
“This is his moment," Santiago said. "He’s just winning at every distance. A mile and an eighth, seven furlongs, six furlongs, it doesn’t matter. The trainer told me to try to go to the lead, but said if Gaucho is there just try to stay close. He said to wait on the other horses to make my move and that’s exactly what happened.”
Tackleberry, bred in Florida by Ocala Stud and out of the Concerto mare Box of Joy, began his rise to prominence with a six-furlong allowance win at Calder last October. He won an optional claimer going a mile the next month there and then scored in his stakes debut a week later in the restricted Jack Dudley Sprint Handicap. Tackleberry won the nine-furlong Fred Hooper Handicap (gr. III) in December to end his 3-year-old season.
He improved to 7-2-0 from 11 starts with his Sprint Championship victory and upped his earnings to $577,225.
“He just loves to run," Olivares said. "He came bouncing out of his last race ready to do something the next day. I had to do something with him or I was afraid he might hurt himself in his stall.
"I’ll look at the Gulfstream (Park) Handicap (gr. II, one mile, March 12). Later on we might have to look at races in New York.”
The winner paid $10.80, $4, and $3.20. The exacta (7-1) returned 23.80 and the trifecta (7-1-5) was worth $35.70 for $1.
Gaucho finished fourth, followed by Mad for Smarty, Coffee Boy, Guam Typhoon, and Mannington.