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Ron the Greek romps in FSM Classic; Successful Song hits winning note in Distaff

Ron the Greek bounded home an easy winner in the sloppy FSM Classic (Courtney Heeney/Adam Coglianese Photography)

Brous Stable, Watchtel Stable and breeder Jack T. Hammer's Ron the Greek finished second behind Mucho Macho Man in last year's running of the Florida Sunshine Millions Classic, but on Saturday at Gulfstream Park the Bill Mott veteran got the best of his opponent and five other rivals when taking the 2013 $400,000 edition by 11 1/4 lengths.

Jockey Jose Lezcano guided the six-year-old son of Full Mandate to his easy score in a final time of 1:49 over the sloppy, sealed main track.

"He's run good on an off track before, however, he didn't run good on a sticky track in the (Grade 1) Jockey Club (in late September)," Mott noted. "It was strange. He ran well today. He liked this. He didn't mind it."

Ron the Greek settled into a ground-saving trip behind the front runners through splits of :23 and :46 2/5 set by I'm Steppin' It Up and Fort Loudon. Mucho Macho Man kept in close attendance a little bit farther back in third. Nearing the turn, Mucho Macho Man began his run and drew even with I'm Steppin' It Up and Fort Loudon. Ron the Greek had also started his move by this point and was joined by Cash Rules.

Suddenly, Mucho Macho Man began backing up, and the anticipated duel with Ron the Greek never materialized as the eventual winner kept distancing himself from the rest of the field. The bay horse easily earned his first victory since taking last June's Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap over Horse of the Year finalist Wise Dan, and paid $8.40, $4.20 and $4.40 as the 3-1 second choice.

"It was a good setup," Mott said. "He was a little closer than he normally is. We had asked Lezcano, if he could, to try to be a little closer. I didn't expect him to be that close. I thought he might ride him away from there a little bit and the closest he'd be was 12 lengths. I guess they headed down the backside and he's five, six lengths off the lead. It looked like was in the bridle and running well. He put him in a drive and he shook loose, and the rest is history.

"We're looking ahead and maybe try to repeat what we did last year, maybe go back to California for the (Grade 1) Santa Anita Handicap (on March 2) and try to do that over again."

Cash Rules was second best, two lengths in front of Fort Loudon on the wire.

"I told (jockey) Luis Saez, 'It looks like the speed was holding all day long, don't be too far off of it,'" said Cash Rules' trainer, David Fawkes. "Saez said going down the backside he kept getting bounced. He looked like a pony next to the other horses. Saez said they were banging into him but he still ran a great race. He's a tough horse and gives 110 percent every time he races. Ran a huge race, got beat by a better horse today, I'm very happy with him."

Atoned followed in fourth while Decaf Again and I'm Steppin' It Up came next. Mucho Macho Man, the 2-5 favorite in his first start off a half-length second in the Breeders' Cup Classic, was eased in the lane and pulled up by jockey Mike Smith.

"He put his head in the air and stopped. I have no idea," Smith said after the race.

"We're going to go back (to the barn) and check. He didn't fire or there's some problem," co-owner Dean Reaves added.

Ron the Greek also ran in the Breeders' Cup Classic, rallying for fourth after running near the rear of that 12-horse field. Prior to that he was sixth in the Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational and second in the Grade 1 Whitney Invitational Handicap, which came two months after his Foster score.

Following his run in last year's Florida Sunshine Millions, Ron the Greek captured the Big 'Cap and was runner-up in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap. The well-traveled Florida-bred also owns a pair of stakes wins at Aqueduct from 2011 and the Grade 3 Lecomte at Fair Grounds during his sophomore season.

Ron the Greek now boasts a 23-8-5-1 career mark and has banked $1,806,597 in lifetime earnings.

The bay horse is out of the winning Fortunate Prospect mare Flambe', who is a full sister to the dam of Grade 2 victor and dual classic-placed Musket Man. This is also the family of champion and classic-placed Silent Screen as well as English highweight and Group 1 winner Mujahid.

Successful Song continued her winning ways in the FSM Distaff (Courtney Heeney/Adam Coglianese Photography)

Live Oak Plantation's homebred Successful Song continued her success at Gulfstream with an easy win over the sloppy surface in the $300,000 Florida Sunshine Millions Distaff earlier on the card. Jockey Joel Rosario gave the Ed Plesa Jr. trainee a perfect ride in the 1 1/8-mile race, and the pair finished up in 1:52 1/5 as the 6-5 favorite.

"She broke well and there wasn't much speed early on in the race, where my horse likes to run close to the pace," Rosario said. "I made a move at the half-mile pole because they weren't going too quick in front. She was the best today, I'm glad we won."

"With Joel, he's as good as there is. You have to have full confidence in him. That's a big plus," Plesa said. "I liked where he was sitting and everything he did."

Delray Lady, the 63-1 longest shot in the seven-distaffer field, tried to steal the race on the front end, setting splits of :23 3/5 and :48 on the backstretch. Speak Easy Gal took up running position to her outside while Mud Honey also kept in contact while wide. Rosario guided Successful Song into a ground-saving trip just to the inside of Delray Lady.

Delray Lady began tiring as the top flight entered the turn, and Successful Song was more than ready to take over. The Successful Appeal mare slipped through on the rail to grab control and proceeded to draw off to a nice lead in the lane. Speak Easy Gal gave chase, but Successful Song easily held her rival at bay to be 3 1/4 lengths clear on the wire.

"She did what she needed to do. She's getting good, and I guess she's getting ready to start her new career," said Plesa, noting that Successful Song is scheduled to be taken out of training and be bred. "This easily could have been (her last start), that was the plan unless they change their minds. We'll see what happens.

"Every year that we've had her since she was two, we've sent her to the farm. Under normal circumstances, she'd be at the farm right now, resting for about 45 days," he remarked. "Again, the plans are to breed her, but no matter what, she'd be leaving after this race to go to the farm for one reason or another."

Successful Song paid $4.40, $2.80 and $2.20 to earn her second straight stakes score at Gulfstream. Speak Easy Gal had 2 3/4 lengths to spare on My Pal Chrisy, while Delray Lady took fourth by nine lengths over Tale of Peace. Score Boyera and Mud Honey completed the order under the line.

Successful Song entered the Distaff off a half-length victory in the Ocala on December 30. That was the six-year-old bay's first win at Gulfstream from seven starts, though she found prior success at Calder when taking the Judy's Red Shoes and Bea Oxenberg Memorial.

Successful Song spent last summer racing at Monmouth Park, adding a win in the Lighthouse and placings in the Grade 2 Molly Pitcher, Monmouth Beach and Lady's Secret to her line. Now boasting four stakes wins and nine black-type placings, the Florida-bred improved her scorecard to 27-8-5-5, $597,538.

As a daughter of the multiple stakes-winning Sultry Song mare Song for Annie, Successful Song comes from the same female family as champion Caressing and multiple Grade 1 king Sea Cadet.

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