Trainer Todd Pletcher swept the two $75,000 turf stakes for juveniles at Gulfstream Park on Saturday. Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners’ Ari Gold wired the Pulpit S., and St. Elias Stable’s homebred Junipermarshmallow stayed perfect in the Wait a While S.
A front-running winner of a Nov. 6 maiden at Aqueduct, Ari Gold employed the same tactics here with new rider Luis Saez. The 9-10 favorite enjoyed a straightforward passage once hustling to the fore, carving out splits of :24.51, :47.06, and 1:09.98 on the refurbished turf course. Ari Gold crossed the wire 2 1/2 lengths clear in 1:27.10 for 7 1/2 furlongs.
“The game plan was to come out running and make a comfortable lead like we did last time,” Pletcher said. “That was Plan A. We gave Luis the option of calling an audible, if needed, but Plan A seemed to work out well.
“I think the blinkers and kind of a change in tactics a little bit has made a difference. He’s a colt with, I think, a lot of room to continue to improve, and we’re proud of him for what he’s done so far.”
Lights of Broadway was runner-up by three-quarters of a length from Congruent. Sendero, Ari Gold’s stablemate and the 5-2 second choice, checked in a wide-trip fourth. Next came Anamnestic, Brumba Waffle Toes, Maximo, and Dangerous Ride.
Now 2-for-2 since donning blinkers, Ari Gold’s resume reads 4-2-0-0, $103,855. The dark bay finished fourth in his first two outings, as the even-money favorite behind General Jim at Saratoga and again in an off-the-turf maiden in the Aqueduct slop. That winner, Dubyuhnell, went on to capture the Remsen (G2).
“I just felt like he was a little bit green his first couple starts, just not completely focused,” Pletcher said of the decision to add blinkers. “We just felt like (blinkers) might be the ticket to getting him locked in a little more.”
The Feb. 4 Kitten’s Joy (G3) is penciled in as a likely objective.
Ari Gold is bred on the terrific cross of Medaglia d’Oro over Forty Niner-line mares, a nick showcased by Rachel Alexandra and Songbird. His particular iteration, being by Medaglia d’Oro out of a Distorted Humor mare, is responsible for Hong Kong supremo Golden Sixty, Elate, and New Money Honey, among others.
Bred by Bass Stables in Kentucky and sold for $220,000 as a Keeneland September yearling, Ari Gold is a half-brother to Grade 2-placed Petruchio. Their dam, Satirical, is herself a full sister to multiple Grade 3 scorer Matrooh and a half to Grade 2-winning millionaire Rule, both multiple Grade 1-placed. Satirical is closely related to 2003 Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness (G1) champion Funny Cide. They are by the same sire in Distorted Humor, and Satirical’s dam, Rockcide, is a half to Funny Cide.
Wait a While S.
As the trainer of champion Wait a While, Pletcher fittingly celebrated another victory in her namesake race. Smart Keeneland debut winner Junipermarshmallow became the third of his pupils to win the Wait a While, after Candy Kitty (2013) and Lira (2015).
“I always love winning the Wait a While, since we had her,” Pletcher said. “She was a great horse for us. That was kind of cool.”
Junipermarshmallow went off as the 5-1 fourth choice. Bettors flocked to 1.70-1 favorite Delight, the Jessamine (G2) romper who was dropping down from a 10th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1). But Delight’s ostensible class edge on paper didn’t translate, as she endured a tougher trip than her Jessamine cakewalk.
Breaking from the far outside post 11, Delight chased a pair of longshots around and appeared vulnerable some way out. The 84-1 Bel Pensiero set fractions of :23.48 and :46.98, attended by the 62-1 Vai Bella who grabbed the lead by the six-furlong mark in 1:11.23. Delight, under pressure to maintain her close position, tried to stay in the hunt but ultimately tired.
Junipermarshmallow was by that point on the march for Irad Ortiz Jr. Covering extra ground from post 9, the Quality Road filly was nevertheless in striking range throughout in midpack. She cruised into contention turning for home and rolled past the flagging leaders to score by a length. Junipermarshmallow clocked 7 1/2 furlongs in 1:28.83 and paid $12.00.
“I had a beautiful trip,” Ortiz said. “The filly broke sharp, so I was able to sit right behind the horse to beat, Jonathan Thomas’ filly (Delight). I waited until we got to the quarter pole when I asked her, and she got the job done.”
“She was a tick wide going into the first turn,” Pletcher noted, “but like Irad said, he was following what he thought was the horse to beat, but the rest of it was good. It looked like when Irad asked her into the far turn, she accelerated nicely, very similar to what she did in her debut (at Keeneland Oct. 16).”
Malleymoo, repatriated from Ireland after a good-looking debut at Dundalk, rallied well for second. If the 8-1 shot hadn’t missed the break, she might have given the winner a tussle. Trainer Jack Sisterson figures to correct that behavior next time.
Stephanie’s Charm outperformed her 31-1 odds by flashing home late into third, just a half-length off Malleymoo, after a troubled trip. Personal Pursuit, the 7-2 second choice, hit the gate and found herself a bit further back than forecast. Although finishing with interest, the Tapit filly was outkicked in fourth. Delight wound up fifth, followed by Isabel Alexandra, Lady Azteca, Born Dapper, Vai Bella, Heavens Express, and Bel Pensiero.
Junipermarshmallow, now unbeaten in two starts, has bankrolled $100,285. A direct matrilineal descendant of Hall of Famer Miesque, the Kentucky-bred hails from a superb female line cultivated by the Niarchos family. Her dam, Elitiste, is a Danehill Dancer half-sister to classic-winning champion Alpha Centauri as well as Group 1 vixens Alpine Star and Discoveries.
“She’s been a very straightforward filly to get train and get ready,” Pletcher said. “We always thought on the strength of her pedigree she’s going to be a turf filly and kind of focused on that for her debut. Even though I don’t think it was a big-figure maiden, I thought it was a visually impressive debut. That’s why we decided to go ahead and take a chance and go into a stake for her second start.”