Ancient Rome Conquers Spectacular Bid Stakes
Favored colt wins Gulfstream’s opening-day feature by a nose
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Ancient Rome was heavily favored in the $100,000 Spectacular Bid Stakes after notching an uncontested victory by nearly eight lengths in his previous start.
The Anthony Dutrow-trained 6-5 public choice had to work a lot harder Saturday to prevail in the feature on the opening day card of Gulfstream Park’s 2011-2012 meeting, digging deep with a last-ditch rally between horses to register a hard-fought triumph by just a nose.
Gulfstream’s total handle was up 22.49 percent over last year’s opening (Wednesday, Jan. 5). On-track handle was up 22.63 percent over last year and attendance was up 1,166.
Ancient Rome ($4.40) chased pacesetter Town Prize along the backstretch and far turn before losing ground in the stretch run to the 3-1 third betting choice. Just when it appeared that Ancient Rome’s well-backed bid for victory in his stakes debut would fall considerably short, his fortunes changed when he was joined and briefly passed by For Oby to his outside. Once engaged by the 11-1 outsider, the favorite responded to the challenge and the urging of jockey Joe Rocco Jr. and fought back as the pacesetter’s strides shortened. Ancient Rome battled between horses to get his nose in front at the wire.
“Talking to Joe just now, he thought it helped him to stay interested when that other horse came up to challenge, and he was game enough to win,” Dutrow said. “The way it worked out told us he needed that kind of seasoning.”
For Oby, ridden by Julio Garcia, finished second, two lengths clear of Town Prize and jockey Luis Saez. Vexor, the 9-5 second choice and only graded stakes winner in the field of six 2-year-olds, faded to fifth after showing brief speed under jockey Javier Castellano.
Ancient Roman ran six furlongs in a sharp 1:08.85, built on fractions of :22.55, :44.72 and :59.39.
“At first, I didn’t even think I was going to be able to get by the horse in front. When the horse on the outside came running, he had all the momentum and stuck his head in front really fast,” Rocco said. “ If he didn’t go by, I actually don’t think my horse would have fought back. He had a lot more left than I thought.”
Ancient Roman was the second winning mount on the day for Rocco, who also guided Grip Hands ($19.80) for a victory in the sixth races. He was one of two jockeys with two winners on Saturday’s card, joining Luis Saez who rode bookend winners, Kidstrong Fever ($4.80) in the first and Folk Singer ($13.60) in the last race.
“Today was amazing. I couldn’t have asked to get off to a better start,” the mid-Atlantic-based jockey said. “Hopefully the snowball keeps on rolling.”
Ancient Rome, who earned $60,000 for owner Michael Dubb, won for the second time in three starts. After finishing second in his debut at Delaware Park on Sept. 27, the son of Roman Ruler broke his maiden on Oct. 11 before shipping to South Florida and his stakes debut in the six-furlong Spectacular Bid.
“He’s made everybody associated with this horse – the exercise riders, everybody – feel good about him like he had a future,” Dutrow said. “He went from winning a maiden race to a stakes and got that done today.”
Dutrow was unsure when Ancient Rome would run next.
“We do feel like he’ll go a little further than this at least,” he said, “and he’s by Roman Ruler, who had a Belmont winner this year (Ruler On Ice).”
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