“He’s screaming for that kind of distance,” said Nihei in the Gulfstream Park winner’s circle following Morning Calm’s authoritative late-running 3 ½-length victory under Eddie Castro.
Coming off a late-closing victory in a 1 7/16-mile optional claiming allowance on April 4, Morning Calm had no difficulty producing a winning stretch kick despite a relatively slow pace during the early going of the $60,000 handicap.
“I have to say that I wasn’t [worried], really. As long as he stays in contact with the field, I know that horse can outkick anybody,” Nihei said. “It’s just a matter of timing and a matter of position, and Eddie made all the right decisions.”
Sent to post as the 4-5 favorite in a field of six, Morning Calm settled off the pace set by Tap and Trade, who ran the first six furlongs in 1:17.74 and a mile in 1:42.56 over a firm course before tiring. On the turn into the homestretch, Morning Calm swept four wide to the lead and drew off to victory. Best Plan Yet, the 120-pound highweight who carried a pound more than the winner, finished second after a ground-saving trip. Rizwan, the 2-1 second choice and only 3-year-old in the field, finished third after briefly taking the lead in the stretch.
Morning Calm ran 1 ½ miles in 2:29.33 while encouraging his trainer to seek out other long-distance opportunities.
“It’s clearly what he likes best,” Nihei said. “He has to play to that strength.”