July 14, 2024

Main Event hangs on in Ft. Lauderdale; Full Count Felicia skims rail in Suwannee River

Main Event wins the Fort Lauderdale at Gulfstream Park
Main Event wins the Fort Lauderdale at Gulfstream Park (Photo by Coglianese Photography)

Saturday’s Pegasus Preview Day at Gulfstream Park included preps for turf performers with designs on the Jan. 27 blockbuster card. Main Event entered the reckoning for the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) by upsetting the $200,000 Ft. Lauderdale (G2) over the same nine-furlong trip, and Full Count Felicia captured the $150,000 Suwannee River (G3), the stepping stone to the Pegasus Filly & Mare Turf (G2).

Ft. Lauderdale (G2)

The George Weaver-trained Main Event was overlooked at 11.50-1 against multiple representatives from the Chad Brown and Todd Pletcher barns. But he was the controlling speed, however, and made the most of it to hang on by a desperate head from the 17-1 Kingmax.

Main Event was hustled straight to the lead by Hall of Fame rider Javier Castellano, who also piloted the colt’s sire, champion Bernardini. As he dictated fractions of :23.84 and :47.88 on the good turf, bunched up right behind him were Brown’s duo of 13-10 favorite Running Bee and an overly keen Stone Age, along with Pletcher’s Jerry the Nipper on the rail. Jerry the Nipper encountered trouble and lost crucial position by the time Main Event reached six furlongs in 1:11.25.

Swinging for home, Main Event spurted away from the Brown pair. His daylight advantage was short-lived, for the rallying Kingmax threatened to run him down. Just when it appeared that the Amo Racing import was about to get up under fellow Irishman David Egan, Main Event found just enough to win on the head-bob in 1:46.47.

Jerry the Nipper regrouped well to snatch third, a head up on Pletcher stablemate Grand Sonata. Considering that Jerry the Nipper was beaten a grand total of a half-length, he likely would have gone closer with a luckier passage. Stone Age wound up a one-paced fifth after failing to relax in his new blinkers. Next came Fort Washington, Marwad, Running Bee, and Red Run. Henley’s Joy was withdrawn to await Monday’s seventh race.

Main Event rewarded his loyalists with a $25 payout while improving his record to 13-5-1-0, $457,783. Now 3-for-4 over the Gulfstream turf, the bay broke his maiden and earned his first stakes credits here in early 2022. Main Event missed by a neck in his stakes debut in that spring’s Palm Beach S., then wired the Cutler Bay S. Adding the Kent (G3) to his scorecard during the summer of his sophomore campaign, he was sidelined following a seventh behind Nations Pride in the Saratoga Derby (G1).

Nearly a year later, Main Event resurfaced at Saratoga Aug. 6. The Harrell Ventures runner needed three starts to regain form, but finally did so in front-running fashion in a Nov. 3 Aqueduct allowance, and he made it two in a row on Saturday.

“He is very talented,” Weaver said. “We’ve always been looking forward to getting back here (at Gulfstream). He does love this turf course. He’s a graded stakes winner and he’s had plenty of experience.

“I told Javier to warm him up and put him on the lead. I told him he won’t break and put you there; you need to ride him there. He followed instructions, and luckily it worked out.”

Main Event was bred by Godolphin in partnership with Eric Buckley and Elizabeth Buckley. The Kentucky-bred brought $50,000 as a Keeneland September yearling and $130,000 as an OBS Spring two-year-old. Out of the Unbridled’s Song mare Total Knockout, he hails from the family of Grade 1 victress Forest Secrets, and further back, Hall of Famer Silverbulletday.

Suwannee River (G3)

Gold Square’s Full Count Felicia, the 11-10 favorite, prevailed under a rail-skimming ride by Irad Ortiz Jr. Aside from the Pegasus Filly & Mare Turf implications, the War Front blueblood was enhancing her broodmare resume with a first graded stakes victory.

The Brittany Russell filly had romped by 8 1/2 lengths in the Sept. 16 All Along S. at Pimlico, her third straight win. Shipped out to Santa Anita for the Nov. 5 Goldikova (G2), Full Count Felicia chased a torrid pace and checked in fourth. A kinder race flow at Gulfstream on Saturday helped put her back in the winner’s circle.

Nestled on the inside, Full Count Felicia traveled smartly about three lengths adrift of front-running Sister Lou Ann through splits of :23.83, :48.25, and 1:11.65. As the stalking Accomplished Girl shifted out for running room on the far turn, Ortiz sensed the opportunity for Full Count Felicia to advance while continuing to save every inch of ground. That proved to be the decisive move.

The favorite threaded the needle on Sister Lou Ann’s inner flank and burst through. Accomplished Girl was also quickening out wide, but she could not peg back the winner. Full Count Felicia drove three-quarters of a length clear in a final time of 1:34.23 for the mile.

Sister Lou Ann reported home the same margin back in third, and Walkathon closed belatedly in fourth. Fast as Flight, who prompted the early leader, tired to fifth, followed by Messidor, Tequilera, and Poca Mucha. Saffron Moon and Willakia were scratched.

Full Count Felicia has now bankrolled $328,901 from her 14-5-2-1 line. Bred by Joseph Allen in Kentucky, the bay didn’t attract a yearling sale price commensurate with her pedigree. She sold for only $85,000 at Keeneland September before appreciating to $200,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Midlantic juvenile.

Her dam, the stakes-placed Galileo mare Claire de Lune, is a half-sister to such high-profile mares as 2008 Irish Oaks (G1) vixen Moonstone (the dam of five stakes winners led by US Army Ranger); 1999 Prix Saint-Alary (G1) heroine Cerulean Sky (responsible for highweight stayer Honolulu); and classic-placed L’Ancresse, runner-up in the 2003 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1), and the dam of Group scorers Sibila Spain and Master of Reality.