HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - Saeed Naser al Romaithi’s 7-year-old gelding Force Freeze was simply brilliant winning Saturday’s $150,000 Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship (G2) by 3 ¾ lengths in his first start since finishing a game second by a neck behind Amazombie in the $1.5 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5.
Trainer Peter Walder was still smarting from the tough loss at Churchill going into Saturday’s seven-furlong test, but had to feel much better after jockey Paco Lopez had the Kentucky-bred son of Forest Camp stalking in second down the backstretch before powering away to hit the wire in 1:20:71, just missing the track record as the 4-to-5 favorite.
“It set up great,” said Walder after the race. “He came out of there and he (Lopez) was standing straight up in the saddle, and thank God, somebody went and he (Force Freeze) sat. They really picked it up – 44 (half-mile) and they (finished) just off the track record.
“I’ve been coming here a long time and it means a lot to win a race here at Gulfstream Park, but the Breeders’ Cup is the Breeders’ Cup. There’s only one way to erase that and that’s by winning it (at Santa Anita in November).
“This is the first step. I told (Lopez) when you make your move – if you end up getting the stalking trip we want, when you make you’re move, don’t hesitate. Just put them away. You’re the heavyweight champ and just knock them out.”
Walder indicated the next target for Force Freeze would be the Churchill Downs Handicap (G2) on Kentucky Derby Day, Sat., May 5, at seven furlongs.
“I had so much confidence in my horse, said Lopez. “He’s just so fast. I worked him a couple of times and he worked unbelievable. I thought he would be able to go the extra distance. He’s so fast out of the gate. I was able to get perfect position. When I asked him, he just ran even faster” said Lopez.
Peachtree Stable’s 4-year-old Troilus finished a game second in his stakes race debut at 6-to-1 with Rosemary Rausch’s 6-year-old gelding Capt. Candyman Can, the second choice, another 1 ¼ lengths back in third in the field of eight older horses. Force Freeze paid $3.60 for $2 to win.
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