HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – It took a hard-fought battle the entire length of the stretch, but John C. Oxley’s Flameaway returned to the winner’s circle in Saturday’s $100,000 Kitten’s Joy Stakes at Gulfstream Park.
Off alertly from the rail under Julien Leparoux, Flameaway vied for the lead through the first turn under Mojovation and held a narrow lead through splits of :23.78 and :48.02. Heads apart, the pair hit the front stretch in full stride and Mojovation soon put his head in front for the lead. Flameaway fought back in mid-stretch to regain the lead, then dug in to hold off a five-wide wall of competitors to hit the wire first by a neck in a final time of 1:29.78 for the 7-furlong turf sprint.
“I wanted to put him in the race and he put me in front pretty easily,” Leparoux said. “Coming into the stretch, I started to ask him, and he’s the kind of horse who waits on the others to join him. They actually passed me a bit, and when he saw them, he began to really kick it in again. It was a big battle to the wire and he fought hard to win.”
The field of seven males were separated by a total of 1 1/2 lengths. Pony Up rallied late to get second, with a neck distance separating Renaisance Frolic in third and the favored Fast Boat in fourth. Mojovation couldn’t hold on and took fifth over Speed Franco and Power of Attorney to complete the order of finish. Nauti Buoy was scratched.
Flameaway’s win was his fourth in six career starts (third in a stakes race) but first since switching from dirt to turf. He was most recently eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf in November, where he made his grass debut. The Mark Casse-trained 3-year-old son of Scat Daddy increased his career earnings to $314,834 with a record of 6-4-0-0, with all races having been contested at a different track.
“He’s a cool horse,” said Casse’s son and assistant, Norman. “He’s a got a wealth of talent. I don’t know if he’s figured it all out yet. I think he got a little lost at the top of the stretch. It looked like those horses were going to run by him, but as soon as they put their heads in front, he picked up the bridle again and ran on. Julien deserved the credit for a great ride. We’re looking forward to the future with him.”
Flameaway returned $7.40 to win, $4.20 to place, and $2.80 to show. Pony Up brought back $7.80 to place and $4.40 to show, while Renaisance Frolic paid $5.80 to show.