HOT SPRINGS, AR – WinStar Farm’s homebred Hedge Fund finally got his first stakes score, drawing off late to take Saturday’s $300,000 Essex Handicap at Oaklawn Park.
Breaking well from the rail under Jose Ortiz, Hedge Fund rated to the inside of Dalmore early while the pair took turns setting splits of :23.21, :46.13, and 1:10.45. Rousing clear in the stretch, the Todd Pletcher trainee drew off convincingly to hit the wire first by 2 3/4 lengths in a final time of 1:42.06 for the 8 1/2-furlong event.
“The horse on the outside (Dalmore) moved by the 3/8 pole, so I had to get going,” Ortiz said. “My horse got going at the 1/4 pole, and he really gave me a great run to the wire. He broke really well and he put himself in the lead. He gave me a great run down the stretch.”
Untrapped initially made an inside bid in the stretch before a fading Dalmore forced him to steady near the 1/8 pole. Though he was able to collect himself and continue running, Untrapped was unable to re-rally and settled for second. The late-running Blueridge Traveler was up in the shadow of the wire to take third by a head over Dalmore. Rocking the Boat, Dazzling Gem, and Multiplier completed the order of finish.
Hedge Fund’s win improved his career record to 7-3-1-1 with career earnings of $376,560 for trainer Todd Pletcher. Owned by a partnership of WinStar, Head of Plains Partners, China Horse Club, and SF Racing, the 4-year-old son of Super Saver also won last out in a February allowance race at Gulfstream Park in his first start since the $100,000 LARC Sir Barton Stakes on May 20, 2017.
“I thought he ran terrific,” Pletcher said. “I was a little concerned. The fractions seemed pretty quick early on, and he was sort of under pressure the whole way. It looked like at the top of the stretch, they had him collared. He just kept finding more and fought back. Big, big effort for him.”
Hedge Fund returned $7 to win, $4.40 to place, and $3 to show. Untrapped brought back $5.60 to place and $3.60 to show, while Blueridge Traveler paid $5.60 to show.