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HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – A month removed from winning the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1), Michael Hui’s Zulu Alpha doubled down for another major South Florida score, this time winning Saturday’s $200,000 Mac Diarmida Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park.
Breaking from post 6 under Tyler Gaffalione as the even-money favorite, Zulu Alpha was slowest into stride and willingly lingered toward the rear through the initial stages. Up front, his Mike Maker stablemate Morocco set out to run a torrid early pace, ensuring no lone speed threat while posting fractions of :23.37, :46.49, 1:11.65, and 1:36.15 through the opening mile.
By the time the field made the far turn for the second time, Morocco’s lead had vanished, and he was soon swallowed up while weakening along the rail. A Thread of Blue was the first to usurp him for the lead, though Armistice Day, Channel Maker, and Admission Office were hot on his heels, and Gaffalione soon tipped Zulu Alpha out five-wide to make his run as well.
As they straightened for home, Zulu Alpha found himself dueling for the lead along the outside of Admission Office. Distancing themselves from the pack, they fought gamely initially, but Zulu Alpha’s class propelled him forward in mid-stretch.
Kept to a hand-ride in the final stages, Zulu Alpha crossed a length clear of Admission Office in a final time of 2:11.47 for the 1 3/8-mile event over the firm turf course.
“He’s incredible,” said Gaffalione, who first rode Zulu Alpha in his Pegasus triumph. “He just gives you so much confidence and he’s so fun to ride. It was great because coming down the stretch for the first time, I looked at the infield screen, I saw 23 (seconds for the opening fraction), and I was smiling. I knew they were setting a nice tempo in front of me, so I wasn’t too worried.”
Though outdueled in the stretch, Admission Office was 3 3/4 lengths clear of the rest of the field. Sadler’s Joy nosed out Channel Maker for third, with that pair 6 3/4 lengths ahead of Spooky Channel heading A Thread of Blue for fifth.
Nessy, Morroco, and Armistice Day completed the order of finish. Marzo was scratched.
Zulu Alpha’s win was his second straight Mac Diarmida score and improved his overall record to 32-11-4-5. The 7-year-old gelded son of Street Cry, claimed for $80,000 in September 2018, has now earned $2,021,714 in his career.
“Tyler rode him last time; not much to say (to him),” Maker said. “Give him a shot and put him in a position to win at the 1/4 pole. He’s been effective 1 1/2, 1 3/8, and 1 3/16 (mile distances) – he’s a nice horse to have.”
Zulu Alpha returned $4 to win, $3 to place, and $2.20 to show. Admission Office brought back $9 to place and $4.60 to show, while Sadler’s Joy paid $2.60 to show.
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