Trainer Chad Brown, fresh off receiving his first Eclipse Award, wasted no time in landing the year’s first Grade 1 turf event courtesy of Almanaar in Saturday’s $350,000 Gulfstream Park Turf (G1). Brown would have had the exacta too, only Beach Patrol was demoted from second to fourth for hampering War Correspondent.
A Shadwell Stable homebred who began his career in France, Almanaar was a flying second last time in the January 14 Ft. Lauderdale (G2). The benefit of having that prep run, and the added ground on offer here, combined to produce a career high.
“He tends to be a heavy horse, and racing helps to get him fit,” Brown said afterward.
Almanaar didn’t have the easiest time in the opening strides. Pulling in tight quarters and stumbling, the 3-1 chance finally relaxed in sixth for Joel Rosario. Up front, Beach Patrol seized the initiative, only to get hounded by the 23-1 Eirigh through fractions of :23.59 and :47.08. Last year’s Secretariat (G1) winner put the longshot away through six furlongs in 1:10.23, but was now left vulnerable to the closers.
First among them was War Correspondent, who burst through to confront Beach Patrol at the top of the stretch. Beach Patrol dug in and tried to fight him off. The early exertions were taking their toll, though, and he veered out under left-handed encouragement. In the process, he body-slammed War Correspondent, knocking him off stride and halting his momentum.
Meanwhile, Rosario had angled Almanaar out for a clear path on the far turn, and in deep stretch, he kicked into overdrive. Surging past the dueling pair of Beach Patrol and War Correspondent, Almanaar completed 1 1/8 miles on the firm course in 1:45.63.
All Included flashed late to take third , a neck back of Beach Patrol and a neck ahead of the unfortunate War Correspondent.
The stewards immediately posted the inquiry sign, and for good measure, War Correspondent’s rider, Tyler Gaffalione, claimed foul against Florent Geroux on Beach Patrol. Upon review, the stewards judged that Beach Patrol had interfered with War Correspondent and accordingly amended the result. All Included was elevated to second, War Correspondent to third, and Beach Patrol demoted to fourth.
Brown still had reason to be pleased with Beach Patrol’s effort.
“I’m so proud of this horse…he’s such a fighter,” the horseman said. “He’ll win some Grade 1s this year for sure.”
Defending champion Lukes Alley, whose heels may have been clipped by Almanaar early (according to the chart caller), was a one-paced fifth. Divisidero, the 2-1 favorite, was sixth after a wide trip and arguably advancing a little early into the teeth of the pace. Ft. Lauderdale upsetter Flatlined was never involved in seventh, and Eirigh trailed.
Almanaar’s resume now reads 14-5-3-2, $431,333. Originally trained by Freddie Head, the chestnut won three straight in the summer of his sophomore season – the 2015 Prix Daphnis (G3), Prix Paul de Moussac (G3), and Prix de Pontarme. He flopped badly as the favorite in the Prix Quincey (G3) at Deauville and didn’t resurface until last fall with Brown. Almanaar needed a couple of allowance races to bring him on after his year-long layoff, and Saturday marked his first U.S. win.
The British-bred five-year-old is out of Group 2 winner and Group 1-placed Baqah. It’s fitting that his first Grade 1 laurel came in Florida, since his fourth dam is none other than champion Brave Raj. The Florida-bred star became a national celebrity when landing the 1986 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1).
Hours after Godolphin racked up four wins on the Dubai Carnival card at Meydan, royally bred Dickinson continued the operation’s hot streak by scoring a breakthrough in the $150,000 Suwannee River (G3). Defending champion Sandiva, hoping to go out a winner, was an honorable third.
Dickinson, a daughter of Medaglia d’Oro and 2008 Ashland (G1) heroine Little Belle, has rejuvenated herself by switching to the lawn. After capturing her first two turf attempts in allowance/optional claimers at Parx and Belmont last fall, the Kiaran McLaughlin trainee tried graded company in the January 14 Marshua’s River (G3) at Gulfstream. Dickinson found a spot of trouble on the turn, and finished strongly in fourth behind Sandiva.
On Saturday, it was Dickinson’s lucky turn, as the 9-2 shot capitalized on a charmed run up the inside. Although Dickinson broke sharply, jockey Paco Lopez opted to ease her back a couple of lengths off the pace, which was solid enough in a nine-furlong contest. Cali Thirty Seven posted splits of :23.43, :47.27 and 1:10.79, and still clung to the lead in midstretch. Sandiva rallied from midpack to challenge, with Elysea’s World flashing home wider out. But the rail opened up for Dickinson, who quickened smartly to prevail by 1 1/4 lengths and finish in 1:45.38.
“Not my plan – I told [Lopez] to go!” McLaughlin smiled when asked about Dickinson’s trip, adding that’s why they trust her rider to make decisions on the spot.
Elysea’s World headed Sandiva for runner-up honors. Sandiva, the 123-pound highweight, was spotting the winner four pounds and Elysea’s World five pounds. The multiple Grade/Group 3 winner will now begin her broodmare career by visiting another Al Shaqab celebrity, Mshawish.
Puca closed from last for fourth. Cali Thirty Seven wound up fifth, and comebacker Goldy Espony was a useful sixth of nine. Goldy Espony ought to do a lot better back up to her preferred long-distance races.
Bred by Darley in Kentucky, the five-year-old Dickinson has now earned $274,316 from her 12-5-1-2 line.
“We’re very glad to get this graded stakes win because she has a wonderful pedigree,” McLaughlin said.
Indeed, Dickinson’s third dam is multiple highweight Flagbird, and her further family includes Broodmare of the Year Prospectors Delite, dam of 2003 Horse of the Year Mineshaft. She traces to the blue hen *La Troienne.