HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Hard Not to Like, who captured the only graded stakes of her career last winter at Gulfstream Park, made a successful local return in Friday’s featured seventh race.
Ridden by Hall of Famer John Velazquez, the 5-year-old daughter of Hard Spun raced on the inside from post one before moving around pacesetter Street Gem on the far turn and taking command down the stretch for a 2 ¾-length victory.
Favored in the field of eight older mares at 3-5, Hard Not to Like ($3.40) ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:39.30 on a firm turf course. It was her first start outside of graded stakes company since beating an allowance field at Woodbine on Aug. 26, 2011.
She now has two wins in three lifetime starts at Gulfstream, rallying for a half-length victory in the Marshua’s River (G3) last January in her 4-year-old debut. She was second in the Ashland (G1) in 2012 and last year finished second in the Gallorette (G3) and third in the Ballston Spa (G2).
“We were hoping to get an allowance race for her, and I’m glad it went,” Matz said. “I’m very pleased with the outcome.”
Street Gem ran a quarter-mile in 22.46 seconds, a half-mile in 46.32 and six furlongs in 1:09.64 before giving way. Unbelievable Dream, at 11-1, came on late for second while Royal Fury edged Street Gem for third by a head.
“John was able to save all the ground, and made a nice run at the end,” Matz said. “I think this will give her a world of confidence, and hopefully we can go on from there.”
Castellano reaches 100 wins for third straight year
Two-time defending Champions meet champion rider Javier Castellano had one win on Friday, giving him 100 for the third consecutive winter.
The 2013 Eclipse Award winner guided Benny’s Babygirl ($12) to a front-running victory in the sixth race, matching his win total from the 2013 meet. He is the only jockey to reach triple digits in track history, setting a record with 112 in 2012.
“It feels great,” Castellano said. “It’s been hard work for the last few years, and I get a lot of help. I’m very blessed and thankful to have the support of a lot of people, including my agent [Matt Muzikar]. He puts in a lot of effort. Sometimes you are in demand and people want you, but you have to select the horses and he does a great job.
“All the trainers give me the support to get it done and make my job easier. Thank God everything is going the right way because every single day, anything can happen to you in this game. I’ve been very blessed.” Luis Saez rode four winners on Friday to tie Paco Lopez for second in the standings with 60. Rainbow 6 jackpot still growing
There will be a carryover of $1,799,747.49 heading into Saturday’s 11-race card after there were no unique winners of the popular 20-cent Rainbow 6 wager for the 35th consecutive racing day.
The 20-cent Rainbow 6 requires a bettor to hold the only winning ticket on the day’s final six races to collect the jackpot, which has not been paid out in its entirety since being cashed for $30,670.26 on Jan. 10.
A total of $450,172 was bet into the Rainbow 6 pool on Friday. The 9-7-1-8-3-7 combination was worth $1,284.72.
Saturday’s card includes the seasonal debuts of No Nay Never and Havana in the $200,000 Swale (G2) for 3-year-olds, and the $150,000 Palm Beach (G3) on turf.
Who’s Hot: Jockey Luis Saez swept the first three races of the card with Izy Power ($8.60), Drunken Love ($6.60) and It’s My Business ($6.40), and added Goodboycharlie ($6) in the ninth. Joe Rocco Jr. had a pair of winners in the fourth with Mia d’Oro ($6.40) and Greengrassofyoming ($21.40) in the eighth. John Velazquez had two wins, riding Hard Not to Like ($3.40) and Dig Alittle Deeper ($5.60) in the 10th.
Rainbow 6 carryover: $1,799,747.49