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HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Vegso Racing Stable’s Officiating took advantage of a dream race scenario in Sunday’s $75,000 Bear’s Den, kicking in through the stretch to score by 3 1/2 lengths over heavily-favored Papetu after saving ground while tracking a contested pace.
The Bear’s Den, a 7-furlong stakes for 3-year-olds, headlined Sunday’s 10-race program that also featured the $60,000 Pembroke Park, a 5-furlong overnight handicap for 3-year-olds and up.
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The Saffie Joseph Jr.-trained Officiating, who is stakes-placed on turf, seemed to relish the sloppy track Sunday. A heavy mid-afternoon shower forced the Bear’s Den, scheduled for 7 1/2 furlongs on turf, to be run on the main track at 7 furlongs.
Officiating, who was ridden by Emisael Jaramillo, settled nicely on the backstretch a few lengths behind a solid pace set by Exchange Day and pressed by Dark Timber. The pacesetters were joined by Papetu, who made a three-wide sweep on the far turn.
Dark Timber took the lead into the stretch off 1/2-mile fractions of 22.46 and 45.31 seconds with Papetu looming boldly on the far outside. Eased off the rail for the stretch run, Officiating quickly accelerated and surged between Dark Timer and Papetu to grab the lead inside the 1/16th-pole with legs fresh enough to hold the favorite at bay and claim his first career stakes win.
Formerly trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, Officiating ran 7 furlongs in 1:23.11 in his third start for Joseph. Papetu, who won the Carry Back 2 starts back, finished second under Edgard Zayas, 4 lengths ahead of Dark Timber and jockey Edwin Gonzalez.
The Pembroke Park was also moved from the turf course to the main track, which posed no inconvenience to Golden Kernel Racing Stable’s Yes I Am Free, who scored a narrow hard-fought victory and second success in as many starts on off going.
The Laura Cazares-trained Yes I Am Free also notched his first stakes victory since winning the Texas Glitter at 5 furlongs on turf at Gulfstream in February 2019.
The son of Uncaptured also benefitted from troubled trips that compromised graded-stakes winners Miles Ahead, the 2-1 favorite who trailed the field early after being bumped at the start, and Double Crown, who was forced to race very wide after breaking a step slowly from his far-outside post position.
Yes I Am Free chased early pacesetter Malroux before taking over the lead heading into the stretch with Double Crown on the attack to his outside. Double Crown’s progress slowed in mid-stretch but Yes I Am Free was in the sights of rallying Man of Honor and Miles Ahead.
The Florida-bred gelding responded to urging from Miguel Vasquez to win by a neck over a surging Miles Ahead, who had launched a very wide extended rally on the far turn. Man of Honor finished third, another neck back and a 1/2-length ahead of Double Crown.
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