The pace figured to be contested in Saturday’s $75,000 Sunshine Forever at Gulfstream Park – until the scratch of Santa Anita-bound War of Will. Even so, El Tormenta, despite the blinkers-off move, might have shown some of his customary speed from his inside draw. But he was restrained to stalk instead, leaving 13-10 favorite Halladay to have it all his own way on the front end.
Now 3-for-3 over the course, Halladay was likewise a wire-to-wire hero of both the Dec. 28 Tropical Park Derby and an April 4 allowance. The Todd Pletcher trainee stole the former through slow fractions, but not the latter in a sprightly 1:32.65 for the mile.
Halladay again dictated an honest pace on a firm course Saturday. His only blip was at the start, when not getting away cleanly and being part of a squeeze play on Hawkish. Rapidly into stride thereafter for Luis Saez, the Harrell Ventures colorbearer carved out splits of :23.71 and :47.00, quickened to the 6-furlong mark in 1:09.57, and held sway down the lane. Halladay reached the mile in 1:32.63 and finished the 1 1/16-mile affair in 1:38.66, just off Inchcape’s course record of 1:38.10 from 2015.
Runner-up Aquaphobia was game in pursuit but could get no closer than 1 1/4 lengths. Social Paranoia, the winner’s stablemate, had even more ground to try to make up and worked his way into third. Another half-length back was Admission Office, who was perched closer than usual early and lacked a late punch. Next came Cullum Road, El Tormenta, Sand Dancer, Highland Sky, and Hawkish, who was relegated to last in a troubled start but failed to show any of his old spark.
In addition to War of Will, withdrawn in favor of awaiting the May 25 Shoemaker Mile (G1), also scratched were Regally Irish and the main-track-only Just Whistle.
Like War of Will, Halladay is a well-bred son of War Front. The gray gets his coat color from dam Hightap, a multiple Grade 3-winning daughter of Tapit. With Tapit’s dam, Tap Your Heels, and War Front’s broodmare sire, Rubiano, being three-quarter siblings, Halladay is inbred to Fappiano and to the notable matron Ruby Slippers. This is the family of Canadian Hall of Famer Norcliffe.
Halladay was bred in Kentucky by Gainesway Thoroughbreds Ltd. and Winchell Thoroughbreds. A $225,000 RNA as a Keeneland September yearling, the 4-year-old has earned $288,485 from his 12-5-2-4 line. Halladay was a close third in his first two stakes attempts last fall, the English Channel at Belmont Park and the Gio Ponti at Aqueduct, before finding Gulfstream congenial. He’s been out of the trifecta only once, as the fourth-placer in the Feb. 8 Tampa Bay (G3), where he was involved in a rough stretch run.