HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Making her graded stakes debut in her first try around two turns, Gary Barber, Baccari Racing Stable, and Chester Prince’s Salty swept to the lead on the far turn and powered down the stretch to a dominant 4 1/4-length victory in Saturday’s Grade 2, $250,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks at Gulfstream Park.
The 47th running of the 1 1/16-mile GP Oaks for 3-year-old fillies was the fourth of six graded stakes and nine overall stakes worth $2.45 million on a 14-race program that was anchored by the 66th renewal of the Grade 1, $1 million Xpressbet.com Florida Derby.
Salty, bet down to even-money favoritism in a competitive field of eight that included Grade 2 winner Tequilita, Grade 2-placed Jordan’s Henny, and previously-undefeated Nonna Bella, completed the distance in 1:42.91 over a fast main track.
Tequilita came with a late run for second, 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Jordan’s Henny. It was another neck back to Nonna Bella, followed by Modacious, Conquest Sorcerer, Spring Mist, and Shezaprado.
Nonna Bella was keen early under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez and set a demanding pace of 23.26 seconds for the opening quarter-mile, 46.72 for the half, and 1:10.77 for six furlongs. Modacious was her closest pursuer with Jordan’s Henny tracking on the outside, while Salty settled in next-to-last with Joel Rosario.
“I thought that there would be some speed, and it was exactly how it happened,” Rosario said. “I got her going a little early because of the first wire. She responded very, very nice. The more you ride her, the more she keeps giving it to you. I felt confident in the last turn when she was trying to get up and getting close to the leader.”
Racing in the clear on the far outside, Salty gradually began picking up horses down the backstretch to move into contention around the far turn before effortlessly slinging past Nonna Bella and Jordan’s Henny as they straightened for home.
“We were back a little farther than I thought we would be,” said Salty’s trainer Mark Casse. “You’re always worried when you think a filly would run two turns when you look at her physique and everything, but Joel (Rosario) got her moving 3/4 of a mile out and that’s a long, sustained run — I was a little nervous about it. Even afterward, Joel said, ‘Maybe I moved a little early.’ He didn’t realize how hot the pace was, but they were getting away from him. She’s extremely talented, as everyone saw today. We’re excited just to have her.”
Rosario was also aboard for Salty’s previous start, a 2 1/2-length maiden special weight victory on March 5 at Gulfstream in her first start since joining Casse when Barber bought a share of the Quality Road bay filly. She lost by a neck in her debut to Nonna Bella on February 4 before the Casse-trained Grade 1 winner Classic Empire came up short as the favorite in the Grade 2 Lambholm South Holy Bull.
“We were impressed with her first start,” Casse said. “She ran the same day that Classic Empire ran, and that evening, I called Gary and said, ‘I saw a filly that I really like run today,’ and I told him who, and he said, ‘I liked her, too.’ We started pursuing her, and Gary bought part of her with the current owners and breeder. The first time we breezed her down here, Norman called me and said, ‘This is a really good horse.’ I said, ‘I hope so.'”
Casse indicated that Salty would be pointed to the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks on May 5 at Churchill Downs.
Salty returned $4, $2.80, and $2.20. Tequilita brought back $3.40 and $2.80, while Jordan’s Henny paid $3.20 to show.
Source: Gulfstream Park