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HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Michael Hui’s Zulu Alpha continued his impressive streak since being claimed for $80,000 last September when he three-wide throughout before still proving to be much the best in Saturday’s Mac Diarmida Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park.
Breaking at his own leisure from post 6 as the even-money favorite under Irad Ortiz, Jr., Zulu Alpha was forced to run three-wide in mid-pack while Village King posted fractions of :24.93, :51.05, 1:17.71, and 1:41.89 through the opening mile. Still three-wide as the field made its second pass down the backside, Zulu Alpha ranged up to within a length of the pacesetter, then was put to a drive as he turned for home. Only slight encouragement was needed for the Mike Maker trainee to take command and hold it securely. Zulu Alpha crossed with a 3/4-length advantage in a final time of 2:16.39 for the 1 3/8-mile event over the firm turf course.
“I got a perfect trip,” said Ortiz, Jr. “I broke probably a step slow. He’s the kind of horse that you don’t want to fight too much with him, he gets a little upset, so when we passed the first turn I put him in the clear and he started to go little by little and when I asked him to go at the three eighths pole he was moving really good. I had plenty of horse and he really took off today.”
A tight four-way photo finish for second ultimately went to Melmich, with necks separating him from Kulin Rock, Channel Maker, and Village King. Hunter O’Riley swung four-wide from last and was rallying past tiring foes but ran out of ground to make up ad settled for sixth ahead of Montclair, Golden Dragon, and Highland Sky. Completing the order of finish came Vettori Kin and The Best Candy.
Zulu Alpha’s win was his third in four starts – all in graded stakes – since Hui claimed him from his breeder, Calumet Farm. The 6-year-old gelded son of Street Cry now sports a record of 23-8-3-4 with $470,374 earned.
“We came in with a lot of confidence,” Maker said. “Irad said he didn’t get away too good and was back a little further than we expected, but it worked out well in the end. The plan all along has been to run in this race and then wait for (the Dixiana Elkhorn [G2] at) Keeneland (on April 20). He’s a very professional horse, easy to train and very classy.”
Zulu Alpha returned $4.20 to win, $2.80 to place, and $2.40 to show. Melmich brought back $8 to place and $5.40 to show, while Kulin Rock paid $10.40 to show.
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