HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Gainesway Stable’s Cherry Lodge made her first career off-track sloppy start a winning one on Saturday when she took it to her foes from start to finish in the $150,000 Ladies’ Turf Sprint Stakes at Gulfstream Park.
Breaking quickest of them all from post 4 under Jose Ortiz at 9/5 odds, Cherry Lodge held an early 2-length advantage over Just Talkin through an opening 1/4-mile in :22.27. Straightening for home still unchallenged, Cherry Lodge responded positively to Ortiz’s cues and continued running strongly through to the wire. Though Just Talkin began closing the gap near the finish, it proved too little, too late, as the Todd Pletcher-trained Cherry Lodge crossed with a 1 3/4-length advantage in a final time of :57.10 for the 5-furlong sprint over the sloppy (sealed) main track.
“To be honest, I thought our chances improved when it was taken off the turf,” Pletcher said. “She’d been training well on dirt. I actually gave some thought about running her in the (Grade 3) Hurricane Bertie (scheduled for 7 furlongs on the main track later in the card) based on the strength of her last dirt breeze, but it seemed like it was coming up to be such a tough race, we opted to go in here. She got away alertly and the track has been playing well to speed. Our strategy was pretty straightforward: try to make the lead. She responded gamely.”
Just Talkin was 6 lengths clear of third-place finished Razorback Lady, while Smiling Causeway and Pastime were strung out behind to complete the order of finish. Blue Bahia, Miz Mayhem, Morticia, Painting Corners, and Surrender Now were all scratched once the race was moved off of the turf.
Cherry Lodge’s win was her first career stakes score and returned her to the winner’s circle after faltering last out in the 8-furlong Grade 3 My Charmer Stakes here on December 15. The 5-year-old daughter of Bernardini improved her career record to 10-4-1-2 with $322,422 in earnings.
Cherry Lodge returned $5.60 to win, $4 to place, and $2.60 to show. Just Talkin brought back $4.20 to place and $3.20 to show, while Razorback Lady paid $4 to show.