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Gulfstream News & Notes March 18
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL -- Aparna Battula holds a college degree in biotechnology to fall back on, but the 23-year-old native of Bangalore, India is hoping to make better use of her associates degree from the North American Racing Academy.
Battula took the first step toward realizing her dream of becoming a successful jockey Friday at Gulfstream Park with a strong-closing third-place finish in the first race.
“It was exciting. I wasn’t sure how it was going to go, but once the gates opened, it went good,” said Battula, who has exercised horses for trainers Jonathan Sheppard and Todd Pletcher, among others after graduating from the riding school overseen by Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron in Lexington, Ky.
Battula stalked the pace with River North behind even-money favorite Honor in Peace, before swinging to the outside at the top of the stretch. River North closed well but fell short of victory by 1-3/4 lengths catching Honor in Peach. Starship Steve finished second, a half length ahead of the Terry Oliver-trained River North.
“I didn’t want to stick him on the rail, but I didn’t have room. He doesn’t like dirt in his face. I tried to take him to the outside but there was another horse outside of us. The trainer warned me he didn’t like dirt in his face,” said Battula, who rode with a 10-pound apprentice allowance. “I think it could have been different if there was no horse outside of me and I could have taken him outside.”
After graduating from college in India, her father, Das, wanted her to go for her masters, but he agreed to give her a year to devote to becoming a jockey with the condition that she return to India and school if she wasn’t successful. After learning about McCarron’s comprehensive program, she investigated it on line and was able to get a student’s visa to chase her dream.
Eldaafer & Prince Will I Am on Target to Meet Again in Pan American
Alghuwayrihah Stable’s 6-year-old gelding Eldaafer and Casa Farm LLC’s 4-year-old Prince Will I Am finished one-two in the $500,000 Breeders’ Cup Marathon (G3) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5 after a wild stretch run, the latter disqualified to 10th for interference, and the two appear on course to face off again in the $150,000 Pan American Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park on Sat., Mar. 26.
The 50th running of the Pan American at 1 ½ miles on turf highlights the stakes action for the weekend to be followed by the $60,000 Ocala Stakes for Florida-bred fillies and mares to be run Sunday at one mile on the main track.
Trained by Diane Alvarado, Eldaafer won the Breeders’ Cup Marathon by 1 ¾ lengths and the 1 ¾ miles distance was obviously not an issue for the son of A.P. Indy. Eldaafer has made one start since then, finishing eighth of nine in the nine-furlong Donn Handicap (G1) here on Feb. 5.
Prince Will I Am has run twice since the Breeders’ Cup for trainer Michelle Nihei, winning the W.L. McKnight Handicap (G3) at Calder on Dec. 18 by 2 ½ lengths after the race was forced off turf and run at 1 ¼ miles on the main track and scoring a hard-fought, three-quarters length victory in the Mac Diarmida Stakes going 1 3/8 miles on turf at Gulfstream on Feb. 19.
Two other likely prospects for the Pan American are Ellie Boje Farm’s 7-year-old gelding Rahy’s Attorney and Stella Perdomo’s 9-year-old Musketier, second and third, respectively, behind Prince Will I Am in the Mac Diarmida in their first starts this year.
Musketier rallied from 10th to be beaten only 1 ¼ lengths for it all in the Mac Diarmida for trainer Roger Attfield. The roan/gray German-bred by Acatenango was Grade 1-placed earlier in his career and made only two starts in 2010, winning the Elkhorn Stakes (G2) at the Keeneland spring meet and finishing third in the Sycamore Stakes (G3) at the fall meet, both race run at 1 ½ miles on turf.
Farnsworth Farm’s 6-year-old mare Amazing will likely be the horse to beat in the Ocala Stakes after a wire-to-wire victory in an ‘open’ allowance going 1 1/8 miles over the track on Mar. 11 for trainer Marty Wolfson. The daughter of Greatness finished a game second in the $300,000 Sunshine Millions Distaff at Santa Anita on Jan. 29 in her previous start when beaten less than a length by Grade 1 winner Evening Jewel.