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Spooky Channel heads to the winner's circle after the 2020 W.L. McKnight Stakes (G3)
Pegasus World Cup (G1) day at Gulfstream Park was conducted under typical racing conditions for south Florida in winter -- sunny skies and temperatures in the mid 70's, with the 1 1/8 mile main track rated fast and the 1 mile turf course firm. There were 7 stakes races on the undercard, 4 of which were graded.
A field of 11 older horses contested the $200,000 W.L. McKnight Stakes (G3) at 1 1/2 miles around 3 turns of the turf course. Red Smith (G3) runner-up Red Knight was the 9-10 favorite over 5-1 Cross Border, 6th in the Fort Lauderdale (G2), and 6-1 American Tattoo, third in the Marathon (G2). 116-1 Dubby Dubbie set the pace of 24.66, 49.28, 1:13.93, and 1:38.43 while pressed by Cross Border and stalked by 18-1 Salute the Colonel. Turning for home, jockey Jose Ortiz sent Cross Border to lead through 1 1/4 mile in 2:02.49 and 1 3/8 in 2:14.32. 36-1 Spooky Channel, 7th early under Julien Leparoux, came out 4 wide into the stretch and rallied to win by a neck in 2:26.16. It was another 2 1/4 lengths back to 8-1 Apreciado third, and 1 1/4 more to late-running favorite Red Knight fourth.
Left: Spooky Channel in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Brian Lynch said, "I thought his last race beaten three lengths in the Fort Lauderdale with those horses was a great effort for a horse that wants to stay a mile and a half, a mile and three-quarters. He's a marathon horse and it's nice to get him out of Turf Paradise and let him show he can fit with these horses out here, because that was a field of good field of stayers right there." Jockey Julien Leparoux added, "He broke pretty good from the outside and got covered up on the first turn. I decided to make a move early on because the way the track is playing and he kept going all the way to the wire."
Right: Fourth place finisher and beaten favorite Red Knight returns after the race. The Bill Mott trainee has a record of 7 wins, 5 seconds, and 1 third in 19 starts, earning $537,658 for owner-breeder Trinity Farm.
The $200,000 La Prevoyante Stakes (G3) featured a field of 10 older fillies and mares also going 1 1/2 miles on the turf. Long Island (G3) winner Lady Paname was sent off as the 6-5 favorite over 5-2 Mean Mary, an allowance winner last out, and 6-1 Simply Beautiful, 5th in the Gillies Stakes. Jockey Luis Saez sent Mean Mary to the lead first time by through easy fractions of 25.48, 51.60, 1:17.34, and 1:42.59 while pressed by 38-1 Latest Version and stalked by Lady Paname. Turning for home through 1 1/4 miles in 2:06.31, Mean Mary drew off late to win by 5 lengths over favorite Lady Paname in 2:28.36. It was another 1 1/4 lengths back to 15-2 Touriga third.
Left: Mean Mary in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Graham Motion said, "Luis came into the paddock and he said he was going to ask her away from the gate. I said, 'Luis, you're not going to have to ask her, she's going to be on the lead.' He did a beautiful job and he slowed it right down. When they went :17, I was feeling pretty good because I didn't think the distance would be a problem." Jockey Luis Saez added, "I look behind me at the three-eighths and there were two or three guys I saw right there and I still felt comfortable because I had a lot of horse. I knew she was going to take off when I came to the stretch. She switched leads and she made it look easy."
Right: Mean Mary heads back to the barn after the race.
The $150,000 Fred W. Hooper Stakes (G3) featured a full field of 14 older horses going 1 mile around one turn of the main track. Allowance winner Free Enterprise was sent off as the 9-5 favorite over 7-2 Zenden, 4th in the Mr. Prospector (G3), and 5-1 Gray Magician, 5th in the San Antonio (G2). Jockey John Velazquez sent Zenden to the lead exiting the chute through fractions of 22.43, 44.68, and 1:09.47 while pressed by 12-1 Epic Dreamer and stalked by 87-1 Storm Advisory. Entering the stretch, Zenden continued to lead through 7f in 1:22.60 but 13-2 Phat Man, 8th early under Irad Ortiz Jr., came out 5 wide for room and rallied to win by 1 length in 1:35.95. It was another 2 lengths back to 10-1 Rare Form third, while favorite Free Enterprise checked in 9th beaten 11 3/4 lengths.
Left: Phat Man in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Kent Sweezey, celebrating his first graded stakes win said, "These people (owners) had horses with me before anyone else did. If I could win a race for anybody, it would be these guys. He gained weight out of his last race and we worked him a couple times in between, which I would not have done on a normal horse coming back in a month. I'd usually just give an easy work or two. But we drilled him a bit. He got tired last time and I wanted to make sure he was fit. If he's going to be able to run on this day, he's got to work for it, so I wanted to make sure I got to the bottom of him. That's a (former boss) Jimmy Jerkens move – when you have a dirt horse, you really have to breeze and crank on them. If he was going to be go run with those horses, he'd better be darn sure fit."
Right: Ninth place finisher and beaten favorite Free Enterprise returns after the race. The Chad Brown trainee improved his record to 2 wins, 3 seconds, and 0 thirds in 6 starts, earning $138,063 for owner Klaravich Stables.
A field of 12 older fillies and mares contested the $200,000 Inside Information Stakes (G2) presented by Runhappy Matchmaker Series at 7 furlongs on the main track. Go For Wand Handicap (G3) winner Spiced Perfection was sent off as the 8-5 favorite over 4-1 Nonna Madeline, 5th in the Frizette (G1), and 9-2 Wildwood's Beauty, 2nd in the City of Ocala Florida Sire Stakes. 44-1 Liza Star and 15-2 Blamed dueled out the chute through fractions of 22.47 and 45.34 while stalked by 16-1 J P's Delight and 15-1 A Bit of Both. Turning for home, the pacesetters tired as Spiced Perfection moved up from 8th to lead through 3/4 in 1:10.50 before tiring. 5-1 fourth choice Pink Sands, last early under Jose Ortiz, circled the field to win going away by 3 lengths over Wildwood's Beauty in 1:23.42. It was another 1 3/4 back to Nonna Madeline third, and a neck more to favorite Spiced Perfection fourth.
Left: Pink Sands in the winner's circle. Winning jockey Jose Ortiz said, "She's a come-from-behind filly, I can't change that. But I was expecting a hot pace. I saw it was 45 and change; I was expecting like 44. But she was traveling well. I didn't fall asleep on her and I tried to be as close as I could without taking her out of her rhythm. When she got to the quarter pole, she started rolling. I was just waiting for some room and when she got it, she was there for me."
Right: Pink Sands returns after the race.
The $150,000 Ladies' Turf Sprint Stakes featured a field of 9 older fillies and mares going 5 furlongs on the turf. 6-5 favorite Girls Know Best led through fractions of 21.68 and 43.70 while pressed by 5-2 second choice Jean Elizabeth and stalked by 5-1 third choice Keota. In the stretch, jockey Irad Ortiz Kr. sent Jean Elizabeth 2 wide for room and she outfinished Girls Know Best to win by 1/2 a length in 55.26. It was another 2 lengths back to Keota third.
Left: Jean Elizabeth heads to the winner's circle. Winning jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. said, "I rode her last time, and she beat the favorite on dirt. I was told the filly would like the turf, so I rode her with confidence. Today, I let her settle a little bit, and at the quarter-pole, I asked her and she was there for me." Trainer Larry Rivelli by phone added, "I'm watching my son play hockey in Youngstown, Ohio. What a mare, huh? I've always thought she'd like the turf, and she came out firing."
Right: Second place finisher and beaten favorite Girls Know Best in the post parade. The Eddie Kenneally trainee improved her record to 12 wins, 4 seconds, and 3 thirds in 26 starts, earning $582,672 for owners Triton Stable, Brian Chenvert, and Eddie Kenneally.
Kicking off the stakes action on Saturday was the $150,000 World of Trouble Turf Sprint for older horses going 5 furlongs on the turf. 19-2 Pay any Price set the pace of 21.68 while pressed by 9-2 second choice Carotari and 1-2 favorite Shekky Shebaz. Turning for home, Carotari took over the lead through 4f in 44.20 but 5-1 third choice Texas Wedge, 5th early under Flavien Prat, rallied late to win by a neck in 55.84. It was another 3/4 length back to late-running 25-1 Fielder third, and a head more to favorite Shekky Shebaz fourth.
Left: Texas Wedge in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Peter Miller said, "Great ride, great trip. Flavien's a great jockey. This horse, giving six pounds to the runner-up and he's not a big horse, it did its job and evened the race out. I'm just really proud of the horse. He ran a big race. He's a great little gelding. We bought him for $30,000 at OBS and I just couldn't be prouder of the horse and my whole team. It was a great job by everyone." Jockey Flavien Prat added, "We were behind the horse to beat. I was able to move around at the quarter-pole and then he was game to catch the leader."
Right: Fourth place finisher and beaten favorite Shekky Shebaz in the paddock. The Jason Servis trainee has a record of 6 wins, 5 seconds, and 3 thirds in 19 starts, earning $374,150 for ownes Michael Dubb, Madaket Stables, and Bethlehem Stables.
The $150,000 South Beach Stakes featured a field of 12 older fillies and mares going about 7 1/2 furlongs on the turf. 12-1 Hidden Facts set the pace of 22.94 and 46.69 while pressed by 65-1 Picara and stalked by 33-1 Limari. Turning for home, 11-2 Atomic Blonde, 4th early under Javier Castellano, found room on the inside to gain the lead through 3/4 in 1:10.56. Kept to task by Castellano, Atomic Blonde drew off to win by 1 1/2 lengths over late-running even-money favorite Mitchell Road in 1:28.03. It was a neck back to 7-2 second choice La Feve third.
Left: Atomic Blonde heads to the winner's circle. Winning jockey Javier Castellano said, "Beautiful! I took advantage, took the easy way. I sit there, took my shot, cut the corner. It was a wonderful race."
Right: Second place finisher and beaten favorite Mitchell Road in the post parade. The Bill Mott trainee improved her record to 6 wins, 4 seconds, and 0 thirds in 12 starts, earning $449,370 for owner-breeder Mrs. J.V. Shields Jr. and E.J.M. McFadden Jr.
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