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While we wait for Churchill Downs, Golden Gate Fields, and (hopefully) Santa Anita Park to reopen this coming week, Gulfstream Park took full advantage of being the only major circuit running over the past weekend. We nearly saw a record-breaking performance at Tampa Bay Downs, too Let’s take a look at who made our latest Three Stars of the Week, all from south Florida:
The most impressive performance of the weekend came from the lone stakes event, Saturday’s $75,000 Sunshine Forever at Gulfstream Park. The Todd Pletcher-trained Halladay was bet down heavily from his 4/1 morning line, breaking from post 6 as the 6/5 favorite in the field of nine. Even though he broke awkwardly, jockey Luis Saez let him use his early speed to put himself on the front end. His rivals let him take a clear lead into the clunhouse turn, which proved to be a big mistake because he cruised home to a 1 1/4-length score. His time of 1:38.66 for the 1 1/16-mile firm turf event came close to breaking the course record (1:38.10). Beating a field that included six other stakes winners should propel him to graded stakes company next out. He could be ready for a huge summer.
Constitution exploded onto the scene as a top sire in 2019, fathering graded stakes winners Tiz the Law, Independence Hall, By Your Side, and Amalfi Sunrise. He also saw debuting 2-year-olds win at a sharp 26% rate in 2019, so it was no surprise when Hyperfocus, his first juvenile runner of 2020, kicked off his career with a bang. The Todd Pletcher trainee was a step slow from the gate, not a good thing in a short 4 1/2-furlong sprint, but his pure talent took over in the stretch as he swept past the front-runners with 1/16 of a mile to go while running on the wrong lead. Under Pletcher’s tutelage, expect him to develope and run even better in his next start.
It takes a special horse to be able to handle the endurance of a three-turn marathon event and nearly set a new course record, no matter the racing level. On a Spree did just that in Saturday’s eighth race at Tampa Bay Downs, a starter allowance going 1 3/8 miles on the firm turf course. Jockey Raul Mena rated him along the inside for the first mile, then put him on the attack during his second pass through the far turn. He split between two foes and emerged onto the front stretch for the final time with a growing lead. Mena kept him to task under a hand ride as he drew off to win by 4 3/4 lengths, crossing in a final time of 2:15.85 – just missing the course record for the distance of 2:15.83. He now has a record of 5-3-2-0 since owner/trainer Juan Arriagada claimed him for $16,000 last December.
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