Todd Pletcher’s duo in the 8TH race at Gulfstream Park on Saturday both finished off the board, but the result of the maiden race nevertheless offered a bright silver lining for the trainer. The winner, Lookin for Eight, had been drubbed last time out by Pletcher’s exciting prospect Battalion Runner. One of the individual betting interests in this weekend’s Pool 2 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, Battalion Runner was listed at 39-1 (as of 4:30 p.m. ET).
Lookin for Eight was beaten 8 3/4 lengths by Battalion Runner in a December 31 maiden at this track and seven-furlong trip. Yet he was in turn seven lengths clear of third, and the Michael Tomlinson pupil was eligible to build upon that debut. Lookin for Eight was sent off as the 7-2 second choice here, splitting the Pletcher pair, 2-1 favorite Blind Ambition (a first-time starter), and the 9-2 Commandeering.
Neither landed a blow against Lookin for Eight, who mixed it up on the pace early and spurted away in upper stretch. With Julien Leparoux back aboard, the Lookin at Lucky colt negotiated seven furlongs in 1:23.77.
Borsa Vento plugged on for second, and rattling home an eye-catching third was Robert S. Evans’ homebred Eastport. Making his first start for Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey, Eastport is sure to progress from this introduction. Watch out for the Malibu Moon half-brother to Sightseeing, a prominent three-year-old of 2007 who won the Peter Pan (G2) and missed narrowly in the Wood Memorial (G1).
Blind Ambition was a creditable fourth after blowing the start, and the son of Tapit and Starfish Bay promises to do better next time. Commandeering, simply outpaced in fifth, is looking pretty exposed by now.
The top six finishers are all Triple Crown nominees, rounded out by Bluegrass Envy.
Aside from Eastport, McGaughey showcased another sophomore to follow in Snap Decision, who broke his maiden in the 6TH race over 1 1/8 miles on turf. The third time was the charm for the Phipps Stable homebred, following a fifth on yielding ground at Belmont last October and a third at Gulfstream January 7.
Snap Decision displayed a neat bit of athleticism for Jose Ortiz. Despite breaking from post 12, the Hard Spun colt found his way to the rail, where he advanced on the far turn. Then he altered course to knife between horses in the stretch, accelerated on the spot, and kicked 2 1/2 lengths clear in a final time of 1:47.09. According to Trakus, Snap Decision motored his final eighth in a snappy :11.28.
Not nominated to the Triple Crown, Snap Decision is apparently happy to stick to turf. That befits a half-brother to millionaire Mr Speaker, hero of the inaugural Belmont Derby Invitational (G1) on the grass in 2014. His female line is well associated with dirt, however. His dam, Grade 2-placed Unbridled mare Salute, is a daughter of unbeaten Hall of Famer and Broodmare of the Year Personal Ensign.
Perhaps Snap Decision could attempt a dirt experiment at some point. But his patient connections are in no hurry, and there’s a lot to look forward to with him on the turf.