La Luna De Miel Stars In Orchid Stakes
By Ed Gray
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – La Luna de Miel continued a rapid ascension to turf stardom Sunday at Gulfstream with an impressive victory in the $150,000 Orchid Stakes (G3)
The length decision in the 1-1/2-mile turf stakes for fillies and mares was her second victory in as many starts at Gulfstream for trainer Graham Motion since being imported from Germany, where the daughter of Monsun had won one of two races.
“She’s bred for the distance with that sire. She came to us at Palm Meadows in November. David (Rock), my assistant deserves credit for how she’s done here. He’s had her here all winter,” said Motion, who has supervised the training of his Palm Meadows string from his Fair Hill, Md. Headquarters for much of the winter “One reason she was sent over is that there are so many more black-type opportunities for fillies and mares over here.”
The German-bred filly, who won her U.S. debut by a length on Feb. 18, stalked the early pace set by Queen Martha while saving ground along the backstretch. La Luna de Miel ($19.80) advanced while saving ground on the turn as Giants Play and Joe Bravo opened a clear lead into the stretch. Jockey John Velazquez took his mount off the rail to pass a tiring horse leaving the turn into the homestretch. The Motion-trained filly strode past Giants Play inside the sixteenth-pole and easily held off the late run of 6-5 favorite Endless Expanse, who was ridden by Julien Leparoux. Giants Play held third, a neck behind Endless Expanse and a nose ahead of Tarrip.
“We were hoping there would be some speed in the race and that’s the way it developed. John is riding so well and was able to get her covered up and then come on,” Motion said.
La Luna de Miel ran 1-1/2 miles in 2:25 3/5 in her graded stakes debut.
“It couldn’t have worked out any more perfectly. Early on, I was between horses a little bit but was able to get her out of there without any problem. Around the half-mile pole, I was saving all the ground and was looking for Leparoux’s horse, figuring she was the horse to beat,” Velazquez said. “Then I thought Bravo’s horse had gotten away from me, but when I asked my horse she got there quicker than I expected to. It was all her today. She ran a great race.”
La Luna de Miel will likely race next in the Bewitch Stakes (G3) at Keeneland on April 28.
Trainer Christophe Clement saddled Exndless Expanse, Giants Play and Tarrip for an unsuccessful bid for his seventh Orchid victory.
Escort Takes Pletcher to the Winner’s Circle
Todd Pletcher didn’t need an escort to get to the Gulfstream Park winner’s circle, but the meeting’s leading trainer got one anyway. Escort, a 3-year-old colt who had broken his maiden impressively on Feb. 19, made another sharp showing in Sunday’s third-race.
The son of First Samurai ran six-furlongs in a swift 1:09 1/5 while prevailing over Indiano by a half length at 1-5 odds. The Martin Wolfson-trained Indiano was making his first start in the U.S. after easily winning five straight, including a pair of graded stakes, in Panama.
“You have to respect any horse no matter when they come from that’s 5-for-5,” said Pletcher of the opposition. “He looks like he’s going to be a good horse.”
Escort is likely to make his next start in a stakes.
“I’ll talk to Mr. Hancock and see how he comes out of the race. We think he’s a stakes-quality horse,” Pletcher said. “Now that he’s won the preliminary condition (allowance) that’s probably where we’ll end up.”
Pletcher also expressed pleasure with Florida Derby (G1) hopeful Stay Thirsty’s first workout since winning the Gotham (G3) at Aqueduct on March 5. The stablemate of undefeated Uncle Mo breezed a half mile in :50 2/5 at Palm Meadows.
“It was a good work and everything looks like it’s on schedule,” Pletcher said. “Most likely, it looks like him for the Florida Derby and Uncle Mo for the Wood.”
Soldat, another prominent contender for the $1 million Florida Derby, breezed five furlongs at Palm Meadows in 1:00 3/5 in company.
“The work went great. We put him behind a couple horses and he took a lot of dirt in his face. His face was covered with dirt when he came back, but he handled it great,” said McLaughlin, whose horse has posted a pair of front-running victories at Gulfstream, including an impressive victory in the Fountain of Youth (G2) on Feb. 26.