On a stakes-packed Saturday afternoon at Gulfstream Park, seven-year-old veteran Endorsed continued his hot streak for trainer Mike Maker, springing a 5-1 upset in the Gulfstream Park Mile (G2).
Between June 2020 and November 2022, Endorsed lost 23 consecutive races. But he’s turned things around at Gulfstream Park this winter, parlaying victory in a $62,500 allowance optional claimer and the Fred W. Hooper (G3) into a career-best triumph in the Gulfstream Park Mile.
Saturday’s contest was widely expected to end in victory for 3-5 favorite Charge It, a 23-length winner of the 2022 Dwyer (G3) and recently victorious in a Gulfstream allowance optional claimer. But Endorsed had other ideas. While Charge It dueled with longshot Octane through fractions of :23.71 and :45.82, Endorsed eyed the battle from third place, advancing to challenge through six furlongs in 1:09.61. Down the homestretch, Endorsed had the winning momentum, edging away to beat the Todd Pletcher-trained favorite by 1 1/2 lengths in 1:35.25.
“It looked he was traveling well the whole race in perfect position and when it came time, he was the best horse,” Maker told Gulfstream Park.
Charge It stayed on for second place despite racing a little greenly down the homestretch. After shifting out from behind Endorsed, Charge It gained back a bit of ground in the final strides.
“(Jockey Luis Saez) said he ran well,” said Pletcher. “He was just kind of under pressure most of the way and got a little bit intimidated. Then when he pulled him out he surged a little bit again but was a little bit green. It kind of reminded me of the way he ran in the Florida Derby last year. He’s kind of still figuring things out. He’s still a horse that’s light on experience and hopefully some more races under his belt will help that.”
Simplification, Dean Delivers, Steal Sunshine, Octane, Noble Drama, O Captain, and Nitrous Channel completed the order of finish behind Endorsed, a beautifully bred son of Medaglia d’Oro out of the Grade 1-winning Tapit mare Dance Card. An on-and-off competitor at the graded stakes level since 2018, Endorsed is finally delivering on the promise of his pedigree.
“Going into the far turn I was about a half-length off (Charge It),” said winning jockey Tyler Gaffalione. “I let my horse out a bit and he just kept building on that. He gave me the confidence and I could feel him getting more confident. He put it all together today. It was a big effort. All the credit to Mike (Maker) and his team. They really figured this horse out and he’s proven it now.”
The Gulfstream Park Mile surprise followed an even bigger upset in the Herecomesthebride (G3) for three-year-old fillies racing one mile on turf. The Herecomesthebride was supposed to go the way of Pletcher’s Cairo Consort, a multiple Grade 1-placed filly fresh off victories in the Sweetest Chant (G3) and Ginger Brew S. at Gulfstream.
Cairo Consort started as the 7-10 favorite and ran well in defeat, rallying strongly from behind slow fractions of :24.84, :50.50, 1:14.31. But her late charge fell just short at the wire; Cairo Consort settled for third place, beaten a head and a nose by Danse Macabre and Papilio.
Danse Macabre, a daughter of Army Mule trained by Kelsey Danner, tracked the slow pace in her first start off a five-month break and kicked on tenaciously to spring a 12-1 upset under Adam Beschizza. She reached the finish line in 1:37.27 while Revalita, Riding Pretty, Moonage Daydream, Malleymoo, Blind Spot, Anna Karenine, and Sweetlou’sgotaces completed the order of finish.
Pletcher enjoyed better luck in the Colonel Liam S., a one-mile turf test for three-year-olds named after Pletcher’s two-time Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) winner. Pletcher’s three starters included 9-5 favorite Dude N Colorado, who pressed splits of :24.39, :48.40, and 1:12.30 before accelerating his final quarter-mile in about :22.67 to beat the stretch-running Webslinger by half a length in 1:35.05.
Boppy O, Ok Boomer, Bluebirds Over, Santorini, Belouni, and Our Dream Rye’d completed the order of finish behind Dude N Colorado, a son of Uncle Mo exiting a third-place finish in the Kitten’s Joy (G3) at Gulfstream. The British-bred sophomore is progressing in the right direction and could be a viable contender for the American Turf (G2) at Churchill Downs this spring, a race Pletcher has won twice before.