The first North American graded stakes of 2017 produced an upset: Carolyn Vogel’s Squadron A went last to first in Sunday’s $100,000 Mr. Prospector (G3) at Gulfstream Park as the 19-1 longest shot on the board.
A veteran of the allowance/optional claiming scene with a 3-for-30 mark going into the New Year’s Day feature, the Dale Romans charge was making only his third career stakes attempt. And he’d yet to win from five tries at the six-furlong trip. In the circumstances, Squadron A was easy to overlook in a field composed of established stakes performers, led by 6-5 favorite Delta Bluesman. But the newly turned seven-year-old picked a good day to score a new career high, and rewarded his backers with a $41.60 win mutuel.
When the gate opened, El Deal hustled to the fore and reeled off fractions of :22.36 and :45.01 on the fast track. Delta Bluesman, who advanced into a prompting role before easing back to stalk, tried to take another run at the leader swinging for home. Moving even better three-wide was Candip, who swept past both the laboring favorite and the tiring pacesetter in the stretch.
By that point, late-running Squadron A was punching up the inside for jockey Corey Lanerie. Finishing best of all, the gray son of Unbridled’s Song forged 2 1/2 lengths clear and completed six furlongs in 1:10.23. Candip crossed the wire second by 1 1/4 lengths, with Delta Bluesman third and El Deal fourth.
“Looking at the Form it looked like everybody in the race wanted to be in the front or right there,” Lanerie noted. “There was a lot of speed in there. I was hoping to find a good spot to close into it. I saw everybody warming up really good, so I had a good indication that they would be sending. It worked out perfect. Four of them tried to go to the lead and they fell back into my lap.
“It’s how it played out,” Lanerie responded regarding his inside path. “I was starting to angle out. Then I saw everyone shift out and the rail wide open.”
Romans explained that the projected race shape was the key in the decision to enter.
“We looked at the PPs [past performances] and it was all speed, all speed,” the horseman said. “There was an allowance race a couple days earlier, so we had already been training for a race. We were ready to run, so we said, ‘We’ll take a shot.’
“They were running along there pretty good and Corey (Lanerie) got through on the fence and saved all the ground. Things went right. It was meant to be. We started the year off right.
“I train so few sprinters, I don’t know the layout. I’m going to have to look around. We’ll have to try a stake somewhere, but that’s never been my M-O, training a sprinter. He’s fun, so we’ll see what’s there for him.”
Squadron A, runner-up in last April’s Sir Shackleton over this track, was coming off a second-level allowance victory at Churchill Downs. His scorecard now stands at 31-4-7-5, $270,543.
Bred by Patterson Bloodstock and Taylor Made Stallions in Kentucky, Squadron A was a $250,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling purchase. The entire has become the third graded stakes performer for his dam, the stakes-winning Stalwart mare Peaks Mill, who’s also responsible for Grade 3 scorer Belgravia and multiple Grade 3-placed Persuading. This is the family of champion and sire Afleet Alex.