HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – A cold front may have blown into South Florida on Wednesday morning, but the sun kept shining on Siena Farm during the afternoon at Gulfstream Park. The Kentucky-based operation had a pair of older fillies, Alaura Michelle and Private Ensign, making their first starts for the Todd Pletcher barn, and both distaffers wound up getting their pictures taken.
Alaura Michelle, a stakes winner as a juvenile when trained by Bill Mott, got the ball rolling in the day’s fifth race, a one-mile turf test run under optional claiming conditions. Sent off at 4-1, the dark bay received a ground-saving trip under jockey Javier Castellano and was bottled up while full of run approaching the stretch. She angled out four wide and got up in time to deny pacesetter Dene Court by a neck.
Wednesday’s eighth race featured the return of Private Ensign, whose exploits at Gulfstream last winter included maiden and allowance victories and an honorable third in the Davona Dale Stakes (G2). After a dull effort on Polytrack in the Ashland Stakes (G1) at Keeneland, the chestnut never threatened on the grass in the Edgewood Stakes at Churchill Downs and was promptly benched. The granddaughter of Personal Ensign ran to her 8-5 odds today, with Castellano giving her a confident ride en route to a 1 ½-length success over the rallying second-choice Arriba Anna.
Ignacio Patino, general manager of Siena Farm, was on hand to greet both winners.
“It’s an exciting way to start the New Year,” Patino said. “With both of these fillies—especially Alaura—we’ve been trying to find a race for them, and we finally got it. Hopefully, we can keep it going and better things can come up.”
Neither Alaura Michelle nor Private Ensign had faced the starter since May, when they were stabled under the Dale Romans shedrow.
“We just wanted to make a change, to see if we could change our luck,” Patino explained about the barn switch. “We had a little bit of bad luck. Both horses had little issues that came up, so we thought it was a good time to make a change.”
Since Private Ensign has displayed an affinity for Gulfstream’s main track, she will likely return to added-money competition next time.
“We think she’s stakes-caliber, or at least we hope she is,” Patino confirmed.
Retirement for Alaura Michelle has been put on hold for now.
“We were hoping for a good race from Alaura, because we were on the verge of taking her to the farm and making her a broodmare,” Patino continued. “We’ll see if she wants to take the next step and keep going.”
WHO’S HOT: Jockey Javier Castellano cemented his lead at the meet with three winners on Wednesday’s card. In addition to the scores aboard Alaura Michelle and Private Ensign, the Eclipse Award finalist also guided Best Behavior ($7.40) to victory in the fourth race. Paco Lopez, second only to Castellano in the standings, had a pair of winners with Roman’s Avenue ($21.40) in the third and Wire Funds ($3.20) in the finale.
Rainbow Six Carryover: $34,057
Super High 5 Paid: $1,665.20