HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Harrell Ventures’ Halladay made good on the faith that bettors showed, taking the field gate to wire as the 6/5 favorite in Saturday’s $75,000 Sunshine Forever Stakes at Gulfstream Park.
Bobbling as he broke from post 6 under Luis Saez, Halladay recovered and allowed his natural early speed to put himself ahead of the rest of the field. He safely crossed over to the rail heading into the clubhouse turn and held a length advantage over El Tormenta while posting opening fractions of :23.71, :47.00, and 1:09.57.
Still in front as he rounded the far turn, Halladay emerged onto the front stretch with a 1 1/2-length advantage. Aquaphobia fought in vain to cut into the margin, but he failed to gain ground on the loose Todd Pletcher trainee.
Unchallenged from start to finish, Halladay crossed with a 1 1/4-length advantage while completing the 1 1/16-mile event over the firm turf course in a final time of 1:38.66.
“I knew there was another speed (El Tormenta), so we just tried to break clean and see,” Saez said. “If he was right there, we’d take it, and if not, we can track somebody, but he broke perfect and he was right there, so we took it. He was pretty relaxed. Around the first turn, he was going very, very nice and relaxed. He came to the 1/2-mile (pole), and when he felt the pressure, I just let him roll and he took off. He won pretty easy.”
Aquaphobia’s three-wide bid through the far turn could only produce a runner-up finish as he crossed 1 1/4 lengths ahead of the winner’s stablemate Social Paranoia.
“Social Paranoia, I thought, ran really well,” Pletcher said. “He was running on at the end, but any time they go 1:32-and-change, 1:38, they’re flying.”
Fourth went to Admission Office a 1/2-length back, while Cullum Road necked out a weakened El Tormenta for fifth. Sand Dancer, Highland Sky, and Hawkish completed the order of finish.
Just Whistle was a main track only entry. Regally Irish and War of Will were trainer scratches.
Halladay’s win was his second straight and second against stakes foes, having won the Tropical Park Derby here last December before finishing fourth in the Tampa Bay Stakes (G3). The 4-year-old War Front colt now carries a record of 12-5-2-4 (including 3 wins in as many local starts) with $288,485 earned,
“You could kind of see it leading up to this race,” Pletcher said. “He was really in good form and training a little more relaxed in a great rhythm. He was a happy horse.”
Halladay returned $4.60 to win, $3 to place, and $2.20 to show. Aquaphobia brought back $4.80 to place and $2.80 to show, while Social Paranoia paid $2.60 to show.