Michael M. Hui’s Taghleeb uncorked a powerful late rally to capture Saturday’s $100,000 H. Allen Jerkens in course-record time at Gulfstream Park. Patiently handled by Tyler Gaffalione, the 5-2 favorite negotiated two miles on the firm turf in 3:22.20, obliterating Unitarian’s old mark of 3:23.22 set in the inaugural Jerkens in January 2015.
The 9-1 Montclair, at the rear for most of the marathon, darted up the fence for runner-up honors, 1 3/4 lengths astern of Taghleeb. Hunter O’Riley took third, with the winner’s stablemate Generous Kitten fourth, in a sweep of the superfecta for the closers.
Claimed by trainer Mike Maker from Shadwell and Kiaran McLaughlin at Saratoga in July, Taghleeb has been on the upswing. The five-year-old son of Hard Spun won the Remington Green, wasn’t disgraced when beaten 3 1/4 lengths in seventh in the Canadian International (G1), and checked in a fast-finishing fourth in the River City (G3) last out.
Gulfstream’s other three New Year’s Eve turf stakes all served up varying degrees of upsets.
The 8-1 Giant Run capitalized on an ideal trip to land the $75,000 Tropical Park Derby over belatedly-closing 2-1 favorite Oscar Nominated. Jockey Joe Bravo masterminded the textbook stalk-and-pounce for trainer Tom Albertrani.
“You couldn’t have asked for a horse to have a better spot heading into the first turn,” Albertrani recapped. “From there, he was just sitting by himself without anyone putting any pressure on him. It worked out in our favor. It looked like Joe had plenty of horse once he reached the three-eighths pole. I could see him looking over his shoulder, kind of looking for the competition. He really had an extra gear today and it was very impressive.”
“When I walked into the winner’s circle,” Bravo said, “I looked right at Tom in the eyes and said, ‘This is one of my favorite horses.’ It’s just for the simple fact that he makes my job really easy. He’s one of the horses that breaks great and puts himself in position. From the five-eighths pole to the wire it wasn’t when, it was just how he was going to go about it. Tom had him ready. His last race was a bad and troubled trip [in the English Channel] – he never had a chance. We threw that race out and had him ready for today.”
This marked the fourth stakes score for Giant Run. The Robert C. Baker and William L. Mack runner earned his most lucrative victory in the Centaur at Indiana two back.
Trainer Christophe Clement was responsible for the exacta in the $75,000 Via Borghese, with the 21-1 Paige bursting through on the inside to edge 5-1 stablemate Desiree Clary and the 41-1 Flipcup.
“Apparently the jockey (Paco Lopez) said he was in big trouble turning for home, but I didn’t see it. I saw a good trip on the rail and everything opened up at the right time,” Clement said.
Clement’s third runner, Trophee, didn’t have as much luck when crossing the wire in sixth. Best known as a half-sister to dual Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) star Treve, stakes-placed Trophee will now be retired without achieving a breakthrough blacktype win.
Owned by Jim Wells and Cheyenne Stables, Paige was notching her first stakes score. The daughter of Sky Mesa placed in the 2014 Alcibiades (G1) and to Al’s Gal in the Kentucky Downs Ladies Marathon in September.
The 36-1 Ultra Brat lit up the toteboard in the $75,000 Tropical Park Oaks. Trained by Graham Motion and piloted by Angel Cruz, the Uncle Mo filly was perched in second before launching the winning move and holding Shaan safe by a length.
“Graham told me not to send her because she would be rank, so I just let her break on her own and she settled really good for me down the backside,” Cruz said. “When I asked her, I had a lot of horse.”
“We’ve always liked her,´ assistant trainer Alice Clapham said of Ultra Brat, whose prior stakes success came in the Christiecat September 9 at Belmont.
“She’s won a couple here and there. She’s just gotten stronger and stronger as the year went on.”