HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Averill Racing and Silver Oak Stable’s R Free Roll returned to winning form in her second start of her 5-year-old-season when sprinting to victory in Saturday’s $60,000 Orange Blossom Stakes at Gulfstream Park.
The graded stakes-winning mare, who has become known for her front-running, “come-and-catch-me” style of racing, continued to use her speed to her advantage when making her second start off a two-month freshening, given to her after she faded to fourth as the odds-on choice in the Sugar Swirl Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream last December. After just getting caught at the wire in her 2015 debut in Tampa’s Minaret Stakes on Feb. 21, the flashy bay recaptured her fitness and stayed the distance in the Orange Blossom, registering a 1-length victory under Jose Caraballo.
“[Trainer Kirk Ziadie] told me, ‘Don’t touch her mouth. Just leave her alone. Let her do her own thing. If she wants to be in front, she’ll be in front. If she doesn’t, she’ll lay second,’” said Caraballo, who was aboard the mare for the first time in the Orange Blossom.“But she handled everything. She was nice. I liked her.”
After breaking sharply, R Free Roll hooked up with Puddifoot in the early stages of the race. With the former on the outside and the latter on the rail, the two set fractions of 21.96 seconds for a quarter-mile and 45.54 for the half, with Joann’s Wildcat, flanked by Flutterby, two lengths behind. Coming into the stretch, the classy R Free Roll shook free and took command, opening a clear advantage into the lane while in the center of the racetrack. The Grade 1 stakes-placed Little Alexis rallied strongly on the far outside in her first start since last year’s Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, narrowing the gap with every stride, but ran out of ground late, while Quiet Hour, another 2 ¼ lengths back, got up late for third.
“Getting to the outside was key,” Caraballo said.“. With a type of filly like her - she’s a speedball - you don’t want to get her in deep [footing], because she’ll just start spinning her wheels, and it’s going to be over before you know it. I was just trying to get her in the fastest path on the track, which was about in the six-path. It seems to be playing the fastest there. She handled it pretty good.”
R Free Roll covered the 6 furlongs of the Orange Blossom in 1:12.66 and returned $7.00 to win. Little Alexis paid $3.80 to place, while Quiet Hour’s show returned $3.20.
“It was a nice ride,” Caraballo said.“When I asked her to go, she responded. I want to thank the owner and Kirk Ziadie for giving me the opportunity to ride her. I appreciate it.”
Big Rainbow 6 Carryover Easter Sunday
Gulfstream's Easter Sunday program will have a 20-cent Rainbow 6 carryover of $532,244.14. There were multiple winning tickets on Saturday's Rainbow 6 paying $15,896.98.
There will also be an $8,672.18 carryover on the Super Hi 5.
Pletcher, Ramsey, Castellano Meet Leaders
Trainer Todd Pletcher, who capped his winter in South Florida by saddling Materiality to victory in the $1 million Besilu Stables Florida Derby (G1), won an unprecedented 12th consecutive training title during Gulfstream's Championship Meet.
Pletcher, who has one horse entered Sunday, will finish with at least 46 winners, 11 more as of Saturday that runner-up Jorge Navarro. Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey led all owners with 23 wins, five more as of Saturday than White Wabbit. Castellano earned his fourth consecutive riding title with 114 wins. Luis Saez was second with 84.
The Championship Meet ends Sunday. Racing resumes Wednesday with a 1 p.m. post time.