The Fountain of Youth S. (G2) and Davona Dale S. (G2) were the highlights of a busy Saturday afternoon at Gulfstream Park. But the card featured seven other stakes as well, and the day’s most impressive winner was arguably Speaker’s Corner in the Gulfstream Park Mile (G2).
A Godolphin homebred trained by Bill Mott, Speaker’s Corner left no doubt about his superiority in Saturday’s heat. Always prominent under jockey Junior Alvarado, Speaker’s Corner pressed a rapid opening quarter-mile in :22.87, accelerated to the lead through a half-mile in :45.10, threw down the gauntlet with six furlongs in 1:09.02, and then burst away to dominate by 5 1/2 lengths.
Speaker’s Corner reached the finish line in an excellent 1:33.84, just 0.71 off the track record set in 2013. Defending Gulfstream Park Mile winner Fearless couldn’t keep pace with Speaker’s Corner while settling for second, though he did finish well clear of Endorsed, Diamond Oops, Ny Traffic, Injunction, Collaborate, and Bourbon War.
Speaker’s Corner has come to hand impressively in recent starts, having kicked off 2022 with a hard-fought victory over Fearless in Gulfstream’s Fred W. Hooper S. (G3). The son of Street Sense has thrived racing in one-turn routes and has to be viewed as a key early contender for the prestigious Metropolitan H. (G1) during the spring at Belmont Park.
The remainder of the undercard stakes action took place on grass, beginning with the 1 1/16-mile Canadian Turf S. (G3). The race yielded a surprise for bettors as 3-10 favorite Never Surprised—fresh off a runner-up effort in the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1)—suffered a shock defeat and finished fifth. In the meantime, four-year-old gelding Mira Mission made his stakes debut a winning one for trainer Ian Wilkes, rallying gamely under Julien Leparoux to prevail by three-quarters of a length over Mouillage in 1:41.43.
An hour later, chalk players celebrated the performance of Virginia Joy in The Very One S. (G3) over 1 3/8 miles. The German-bred five-year-old mare settled patiently behind a slow pace before unleashing a sharp rally to beat Family Way by one length in 2:15.92. Irad Ortiz rode Virginia Joy on behalf of Chad Brown, and the victory marked Virginia Joy’s first at the graded or group stakes level since claiming the Mehl-Mulhens-Trophy (G3) during the summer of 2020 in Germany.
Ortiz and Brown returned to the winner’s circle following the Honey Fox S. (G3), in which In Italian led all the way to win by a comfortable 1 1/4 lengths over stretch-running Wakanda. The British-bred four-year-old filly handled the jump from allowance to stakes company just fine while recording her third victory from four starts, suggesting In Italian still has upside after stopping the timer for one mile in 1:35.16.
A much closer finish unfolded in the Palm Beach S. for three-year-olds racing one mile. Last year’s With Anticipation S. (G3) winner Coinage needed every yard of the Gulfstream homestretch to outkick Main Event in a thrilling drive, responding to the urging of jockey Luis Saez to score by a neck in 1:36.12. Mark Casse conditions the New York-bred son of Tapit, who finished ninth in the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1).
The grass action continued with the 1 3/8-mile Mac Diarmida S. (G3), in which 3-5 favorite Abaan suffered a troubled trip and finished fourth. But even with a clean journey, it’s questionable whether Abaan could have defeated Temple, a Mike Maker trainee picking up his first victory from eight starts at the graded stakes level. Previously runner-up behind Abaan in the W. L. McKnight S. (G3) at Gulfstream, Temple tracked the early tempo under Jose Ortiz before seizing command with authority to win by a length over Shamrocket in 2:15.30.
The afternoon concluded with the Herecomesthebride S. (G3) for three-year-old fillies racing one mile. Spendarella was favored off a flashy debut win at Gulfstream, and she ran to expectations in her stakes debut, leading all the way under Jose Ortiz to beat Opalina by 1 1/2 lengths. The Graham Motion trainee stopped the clock in 1:34.38 while bringing her record to a perfect 2-for-2.
Racing continues on Sunday at Gulfstream Park, when a $274,672 Rainbow Pick 6 carryover is scheduled for mandatory dispersal.