HALLANDALE BEACH, FL -- Whomping Willow shed her bridesmaid status with a stylish performance in today's sixth race at Gulfstream, a $47,000 maiden special weight for 3-year-old fillies. The daughter of Mineshaft had been second in three of her five previous starts, but went postward as the 2-1 favorite in this seven-furlong contest.
Away alertly under jockey Corey Lanerie, the dark bay filly vied with betting rival Hanalei Hailey down the backstretch. She put that $625,000 purchase away approaching the stretch and opened up for a 4 1/2-length tally. Whomping Willow, who stopped the clock in 1:22.24, is trained by Dale Romans on behalf of owners Mark and John Bacon and Dana Wells.
"She's a good filly," Romans said. "I don't know where we'll go from here, but I think black-type races are in her near future. We're going to go two turns with her next time."
Second in her first two starts on the dirt at Churchill last summer, Whomping Willow was benched following a seventh on the turf at Saratoga on July 22. She filled the same spot in her October 12 return on the Keeneland Polytrack, and most recently finished a close second at Gulfstream on January 12.
WHO'S HOT:Jockey Javier Castellano stretched his lead in the standings with four winners on Sunday. After riding Discussion Closed ($3.80) in the opener, Castellano guided Blockade Runner ($10.00) home in the fifth, Devil's Cave ($10.40) in the featured $200,000 Sabin Stakes (G2) and Itsreigningkittens ($14.40) in the finale. Leading owners Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey had a hat trick today with Discussion Closed, Blockade Runner and Itsreigningkittens. He's So Proud ($4.20) notched his fifth straight victory of 2014 at Gulfstream with his win in Sunday's second race.
Rainbow 6 Carryover: $966,896.75