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SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – After coming close against several of the division’s best earlier this year, Otter Bend Stables’ Gufo finally appeared back in the winner’s circle with a game effort to take Saturday’s $750,000 Resorts World Casino Sword Dancer Stakes (G1) at Saratoga
The Sword Dancer is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, with Gufo receiving an automatic berth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Del Mar this November.
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Gufo was made the 5/2 slight favorite as he exited post 2 under Joel Rosario and took up residency at the rear of the field of seven older males about to traverse 1 1/2 miles over the firm inner turf.
Channel Maker set a lengthy opening pace but wilted after the opening mile as Tribhuvan, Gufo, and Japan began launching their bids heading into the far turn for the second time.
Gufo split rivals before tipping out to launch a three-wide bid at the top of the stretch and overtook Channel Maker with a furlong to go. Japan, stuck in traffic behind tiring rivals, had to wait for room and made his bid too late.
The Christophe Clement-trained Gufo held off Japan at the wire by a neck while completing the course in 2:28.30.
“I had a very good trip. It looked like they went nice and firm,” Rosario said. “It was a nice pace and on the backside, I was just moving nicely with my horse and decided to be where I was. He ran a really good race today and turning for home, it was just a really good performance.”
Another 3 1/2 lengths behind them, Cross Border came across third, a 1/2-length and a neck in front of Rockemperor and Tribhuvan, respectively.
Channel Maker and Moretti completed the order of finish.
Gufo’s win was his second straight following the Grand Couturier Stakes at Belmont Park and his second at the Grade 1 level following last year’s Belmont Derby (G1). The 4-year-old Declaration of War colt’s record improved to 12-7-2-3 with $1,138,510 earned.
“I am delighted with this horse and the way he ran today,” Clement said. “He is a top-class horse. He’s always been a top-class horse. A mile and 1/4, a mile and 1/2, it really doesn’t matter for him. I am delighted to win this race. The race set up perfect. There was plenty of pace. The stable has been lucky (winning) that way this year. This is fun and it’s the kind of race we like to win.”
Gufo returned $7.10 to win, $3.80 to place, and $2.80 to show. Japan brought back $4 to place and $3.10 to show. Cross Border paid $3.70 to show.
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