The 20-cent Rainbow Six stands at $599,032.74 after a big day of racing Sunday, with the six-of-six paying $18,476.68. The Super Hi-5 carryover is $31,387.51. The Rainbow Six carryover will be especially worth following when racing resumes next week, for some very large payouts can be expected.
Racing’s Stars Shine on Stakes-Packed Sunday
The stars were out in full force Sunday, and the jam-packed graded stakes action didn’t disappoint. Two-time Eclipse Champion Groupie Doll closed out her brilliant career with a dominant seven-length win over Five Star Momma and Wildcat Lily in the $200,000 Hurricane Bertie Stakes (G3). The six-year-old mare overcame a slow start and an inside post to cruise home an easy victor for trainer Buff Bradley and owner Mandy Pope, entering the Winner’s Circle to resounding cheers and a standing ovation from the Gulfstream Park crowd. Groupie Doll will retire with nine graded stakes wins, including four Grade 1 victories, and more than $2.6 million in earnings. She will be bred to Tapit this spring.
While Groupie Doll prevailed as a heavy favorite, the rest of the graded stakes were won in upset fashion. In the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1), the four-year-old Lochte completely shocked a deep field of Grade 1 winners to win by 2 ¾ lengths over Imagining and Amira’s Prince (IRE). The win was not only the gelding’s first in a Grade 1, it was also his first in a stakes of any kind, graded or ungraded. It was also the first Grade 1 win for trainer Marcus Vitali and jockey Orlando Bocachica, making for a joyous post-race celebration, causing a grinning Bocachica to say, “I think he’s my new favorite horse.”
The day’s feature, the $500,000 Donn Handicap (Grade 1), was won by the Bill Mott trained Lea, who set a new track record while defeating the reigning Champion three year old in Will Take Charge by 1 ½ lengths, covering the 1 1/8 mile distance in 1:46.86. Under Joel Rosario, Lea had a perfect stalking trip behind frontrunner Uncaptured. The five-year-old son of First Samurai is now two-for-two this year at Gulfstream Park, having won the Hal’s Hope Stakes (G3) on January 11th.
Vaccarezza Gets First Win of Training Career
Breeder, owner, and restaurant aficionado Carlo Vaccarezza earned the first win of his young training career when his Little Alexis won the fifth race, a 5 ½ furlong maiden event for three-year-old fillies, at 23-1 over the Todd Pletcher trained My Miss Sophia.
Vaccarezza has been in the racing business for quite some time, having bred and owned successful runners such as 2012 Breeders’ Cup Turf Champion Little Mike. He’s also owned multiple eateries, including the “Frank & Dino’s,” located in Deerfield Beach. But in the past year, Vaccarezza decided to sell most of his restaurants and try his hand at training his own racing stable.
“I had so much time to spare, and I had all these horses with Dale (Romans), who is one of my best friends and greatest supporters,” Vaccarezza said, “so I decided to do it. I live here in Parkland and I stay here year-round, so everything just fell into place.”
It took Vaccarezza less than 10 starts to get his first win, and Little Alexis more than impressed as a first-time starter, winning by 1 ¾ lengths and almost breaking the 1:02.34 track record set by Discreet Dancer in 2011. The bay filly by Mr. Greeley out of a Giants Causeway mare stopped the clock in 1:02.85.
“It’s fantastic,” Vaccarezza said. “I think this makes it well worth it. To beat these kind of fillies, it’s very rewarding.”
Little Alexis’ journey to the races has been long in the works. After Vaccarezza’s partnership Little Dreams Racing purchased her last year at a sale in Keeneland, the group had high hopes for her. In fact, they targeted the Grade 1 Pocahontas Stakes at Churchill Downs as the filly’s first start. But an injury sustained while training in the gate set her back, and she did not race as a two year old. Instead, she was sent to WinStar Farm in Lexington to recover before Vaccarezza brought her with him to Gulfstream.
“It took me a long time to get her healthy,” Vaccarezza said. “But finally she was breezing well in the morning. She’s a very smart filly.”
Vaccarezza is unsure of where Little Alexis will run next, but he believes he and his filly are headed for bigger and better things.
“When I saw the overnight (entries) and found out I was racing against Todd (Pletcher) and (Kiaran) McLaughlin and Chad Brown and all these big fillies, I said, ‘God, I can’t believe I can’t get a break.’ But she spoke for herself, and I think she’s a very good filly with a future in front of her. I think she’s a stakes-caliber filly. I’m going to enjoy this moment and we’ll see what happens.”
Who’s Hot: Javier Castellano and Joseph Rocco, Jr. were the top jockeys of the day, combining to win five races between them. Castellano took the 3rd, 9th, and 10th races aboard Hothersal, Seeking Her Glory, and Sapphire Blue, respectively, while Rocco claimed back-to-back wins in the sixth and seventh aboard White Sangria and Successful Luck.