May 26, 2024

Zulu Alpha best in Mac Diarmida; A Thread of Blue adds Palm Beach

Zulu Alpha speeds to victory in the Mac Diarmida Stakes (G2) under jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. at Gulfstream Park on March 2, 2019 (c) Adam Coglianese Photography/Leslie Martin

A trio of graded turf stakes for males were offered on Saturday’s Fountain of Youth (G2) undercard at Gulfstream Park and Zulu Alpha continued to make an impact at longer distances in the $200,000 Mac Diarmida (G2), winning the 1 3/8-mile affair going away by nearly a length.

Winner of the 1 1/2-mile W.L. McKnight (G3) on January 26, Zulu Alpha has now captured two-of-three starts since joining Mike Maker’s shedrow this winter. He’s recorded three graded wins from four starts since being claimed by Michael Hui, who haltered the gelding for an $80,000 tag from a 9 1/2-length win at Churchill Downs in mid-September. The dark bay son of Street Cry captured the 1 1/2-mile Sycamore (G3) at Keeneland in mid-October under the direction of John Ortiz.

Off as the even-money favorite among 11 rivals, Zulu Alpha settled just off the early leaders in third with Irad Ortiz Jr. and didn’t launch his move until the stretch drive. Village King showed the way on a short lead, Channel Maker tracked in second while under a snug hold and Kulin Rock saved ground while up close in fourth during the early stages.

Zulu Alpha advanced four wide to the lead in midstretch and finished strong to comfortably prove best under the wire. Melmich rallied from far back for second at 13-1, a neck better than 44-1 Kulin Rock. It was another neck back to 2-1 Channel Maker in fourth and 10-1 Village King retreated to fifth.

“We came in with a lot of confidence,” Maker said. “Irad said he didn’t get away too good and was back a little further than we expected, but it worked out well in the end. The plan all along has been to run in this race and then wait for Keeneland. He’s a very professional horse, easy to train and very classy.”

The winner traveled 11 furlongs on firm turf in 2:16.39.

“I got a perfect trip, I broke probably a step slow,” Ortiz added. “He’s the kind of horse that you don’t want to fight too much with him, he gets a little upset, so when we passed the first turn I put him in the clear and he started to go little by little and when I asked him to go at the three eighths pole he was moving really good. I had plenty of horse and he really took off today.”

Zulu Alpha has now earned $470,397 from a 23-8-3-4 record, more than half of it coming after the claim. The six-year-old began his career overseas, dropping four starts in Ireland, and broke his maiden when making his U.S. debut in July 2017. He finished third in last year’s Marvin Muniz (G2) at Fair Grounds but dropped into the high-priced claiming ranks five starts later.

Bred in Kentucky by Calumet Farm, Zulu Alpha is out of the A.P. Indy mare Zori, a half-sister to 1997 champion three-year-old filly Ajina. This is the immediate female family of multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire and sire Quality Road.

A Thread of Blue and jockey Luis Saez score in the Palm Beach Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park on March 2, 2019 (c) Adam Coglianese Photography

A Thread of Blue continued to rise in the three-year-old turf ranks by taking the $150,000 Palm Beach (G3). A convincing winner of the February 3 Dania Beach, the Kiaran McLaughlin-trained colt turned back a challenge by runner-up Casa Creed to notch his third consecutive triumph on Gulfstream’s turf. Luis Saez was up for owner Leonard Green and the dark bay son of Hard Spun prevailed by about a length as the 1-2 favorite.

A maiden winner in an off-the-turf event at Belmont Park last October, A Thread of Blue finished third when trying stakes company in the Awad at Aqueduct a month later. He earned his first turf victory when posting a comfortable tally over entry-level allowance foes at Gulfstream on December 22 and was exiting a 3 1/2-length score in the one-mile Dania Beach.

A Thread of Blue stretched back out to 1 1/16 miles Saturday and stopped the teletimer in 1:41.93. He raced within striking range in third during the early stages and made his bid for the lead leaving the far turn.

“He’s a really nice horse and does everything right,” McLaughlin said. “He obviously loves it in Florida, winning three in a row here and we’ll probably give him a little more time in-between races next time…I definitely think he can stretch out to a mile and a quarter, should be no problem. The mile and half might be a little far for him, but certainly we’ll try a mile and a quarter.”

Casa Creed, winner of the Kitten’s Joy two back and sixth in the Dania Beach, offered a solid showing from midpack but had to settle for second as the 6-1 third choice, a length better than 7-2 second choice Louder Than Bombs in third. Completing the eight-horse field were Art G is Back, King Officer, Stirling Drive, Castlewood and pacesetter Hard Belle.

Bred in Kentucky by Flaxman Holdings, A Thread of Blue is out of the English Group 2-winning Seeking the Gold mare Enthused and counts Irish Group 3-winning Norman Invader as a half-brother. He was purchased for $430,000 at the OBS March two-year-old sale.

A Thread of Blue has now earned $241,590 from a 7-4-1-1 career line.

Krampus and jockey John Velazquez (inside) just hold off Breaking the Rules under Irad Ortiz Jr. (outside) to take the Canadian Turf Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park on March 2, 2019 (c) Adam Coglianese Photography

In the $150,000 Canadian Turf (G3), Krampus repelled 3-5 favorite Breaking the Rules by a head to garner his first stakes tally. Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott padded his record with a sixth win in the one-mile turf affair and John Velazquez was up on the five-year-old gelding.

Krampus, who is by Shakespeare and out of the unraced Rahy mare Midtown Girl, left the starting gate as the 9-2 third choice among six runners and stalked the pace in second before launching his move midway on the far turn. He accelerated into the stretch with a short advantage and dug in gamely to score, finishing in 1:34.98.

Bred in Kentucky by owner/breeder William C. Schettine, Krampus was making only his third stakes appearance and first graded attempt. He was exiting a troubled fourth in the February 9 El Prado and the former claimer winner has now bankrolled $305,110 from a 13-5-3-1 ledger.

“This is the kind of trip I was hoping he was going to get,” Mott said. “Sometimes he gets a little far back. He makes a nice run but it seems like, when he’s up close like this and able to stay up close and get in a nice stalking position, he runs real hard. He doesn’t wanna let anybody by. He’s one of those horses, he’s really kind of a barn favorite. He’s probably not the best horse in the barn but nobody tries harder than he does. You know what I mean? He’s a real neat, real neat kind of horse.”