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ELMONT, NY – Otter Bend Stables’ Gufo added blinkers and used a major class drop to successfully rallying from last to win Monday’s $150,000 Grand Couturier Stakes at Belmont Park.
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Gufo was the 4/5 favorite under Joel Rosario as he exited the barriers and settled at the rear while saving ground as the field passed under the wire for the first time.
Tide of the Sea was quickest from the gate and posted leisurely uncontested fractions of :26.09, :51.03, 1:16.48, and 1:41.02 through the opening mile.
Rallying five-wide in the far turn, Gufo straightened for home with a narrow advantage and began pulling away.
Though he drifted inward during the stretch run and squeezed Sadler’s Joy back, the Christophe Clement trainee drew off to win the 1 1/2-mile good outer turf route by 1 length in 2:28.73.
“I corrected him. He always likes to look around a little bit, and that was it. He was fine after that,” Rosario said about his stretch run. “He was a little more focused with the blinkers. It was a slow pace, but he was a little more up in the race. It seemed like they helped.”
Tide of the Sea held onto second by a neck over Shamrocket, while Sadler’s Joy faded to fourth. Red Knight and Kinenos completed the result.
Fantasioso, Epic Bromance, Moon Over Miami, and Burning Bright scratched.
Following the race, Sadler’s Joy’s jockey Jose Ortiz alleged interference in the stretch and the stewards held an inquiry into the matter as well, but no change was made to the original order of finish.
Gufo’s win was his first since last October’s Belmont Derby (G1) held over this same course and distance. The 4-year-old Declaration of War colt’s record improved to 11-6-2-3 with $738,510 earned and will now target the Sword Dancer Stakes (G1) at Saratoga on August 28. The Sword Dancer is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” for the Turf.
“That’s the plan,” Clement said. “He has 3 starts this year and the plan was always to give him 3 starts. I was going to run in the United Nations (G1), but the (Monmouth Park) whip rule and the fact that things have been a bit speed-favoring at Monmouth, I had to think about it. I figured that the Bowling Green (G2) was a touch too close to the Sword Dancer, so I ran him today. The next 2 or 3 weeks, I’ll start playing with him and breeze him around the first week of August. Then we’ll be ready for the Sword Dancer.”
Gufo returned $3.80 to win, $2.60 to place, and $2.10 to show. Tide of the Sea brought back $5.40 to place and $3.90 to show. Shamrocket paid $3 to show.
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