Musical Flair Breathes Easy in Needles Stakes
By Ed Gray
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Musical Flair took a deep breath in the stretch at Gulfstream Park Saturday and sprinted to victory in the $60,000 Needles Stakes.
The 3-year-old son of Songandaprayer, who underwent surgery to repair an entrapped epiglottis after finishing 11th in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland last October, scored by three-quarters of a length in the five-furlong sprint on turf.
“He led for three-quarters in the Breeders’ Futurity and stopped. He had an entrapped epiglottis and we sent him to Ocala to be operated on,” trainer Salvatore Santoro said. “Obviously, it was successful.”
Musical Flair was rated off the pace, contested by Hello Prince and Indirectly A.P., before jockey John Velazquez found a lane in the stretch. When asked, the Kentucky-bred colt quickly accelerated to surge past his rivals on the way to victory. Yet, Velazquez, who picked up the mount from an injured Juan Leyva, had to work for the win. “I went to get my position down the backside and he wanted to lug in. I had a horse inside of me so I had to drag him out to straighten him out,” Velazquez said. “Then around the far turn, when I went to move outside, he tried to drift that way. Either way you drag him, he wants to drift. He’s clearly very talented. To move up to the next level, he’s going to have to learn what to do a little better.”
Hello Prince, who broke from the No. 1 post under Jose Garcia, crossed under the finish line in second, another three-quarters of a length ahead of Martini Madness. However, the runner-up was disqualified and placed last in the field of six for interfering with sixth-place finisher Indirectly A.P. in the stretch.
“The No. 1 came out under left-handed whipping and bothered the No. 2 (Indirectly A.P.), so the No. 1 horse was taken down from second and placed last,” associate steward Don Brumfield said.
Martini Madness, ridden by Eduardo Nunez, was placed second, while Silver Menace, who finished fourth under Jose Ferrer, was placed third.
Musical Flair ran five furlong on turf in 57.49 seconds to collect his third victory in five starts for owners Kathleen Amaya and Raffaele Centofanti. Prior to running off the board against Grade 1 company at Keeneland, Musical Flair captured the Fasig-Tipton Dash over five furlongs on turf at Calder last August.
“I have to give a lot of credit to the owners. They said, ‘take your time with him and bring him back when he’s ready,’” Santoro said. “We chose this spot because of the timing and he showed he liked turf last year.” Musical Flair, who broke his maiden in his second start over a sloppy main track, may not return to the turf in his next start, however.
“He’s worked ‘bullets’ on the dirt and we plan to stretch him out again,” Santoro said. “We’ll see how he comes out of it, but the Fountain of Youth (Feb. 26) is one possible option.”