Never Retreat Advances To Victory In Honey Fox
By Ed Gray
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - Never Retreat was a stretch factor in her first two graded-stakes starts at the Gulfstream Park meeting but ran out of ground while closing from far back in the field. The 6-year-old mare was a factor throughout the running of Saturday’s $100,000 Honey Fox (G3), leaving her with much less ground to cover on her way to victory over 10 fillies and mares.
Trained by Chris Block, Never Retreat had previously finished second in the Suwannee River (G3) on Feb. 9 and third in the Marshua’s River (G3) on Jan. 9, closing from eighth at the top of the stretch on both occasions. Saturday, Never Retreat ($8) settled just behind the pacesetting Persuading before kicking in through the stretch to win by a length under jockey Julien Leparoux.
“I didn’t think I would that close to the pace, but I had no instructions. So I just let her settle, and that’s where we ended up,” said Leparoux, who rode the 3-1 favorite for the first time. “She broke good and was very relaxed. When I asked her, she finished strong.”
Persuading, who set fractions of :24 1/5, :47 4/5 and 1:11 1/5 under Jesus Castanon, finished second, a neck ahead of late-closing Aviate and jockey Kent Desormeaux. Never Retreat ran one mile on turf in 1:34 1/5.
“I was surprised when she jumped out there early, but she was settled and going easy on the backstretch after the quarter in 24 (seconds). From there I was pretty confident,” Block said. “We bought her privately as a 4-year-old and she was a bit of a task until we got to know her better, but she’s done everything we’ve asked over the last year.
The Chicago-based trainer brought four horses to Gulfstream, including Giant Oak, who captured the Donn (G1) on Feb. 5.
“We brought the right horses here this winter, and they have the right races for them here,” said Block, who saddled Askbut I Won’ttell for a victory in the My Charmer (G3) at Calder prior to the Gulfstream meeting. “We’ll probably look at something at Keeneland for her next.”
Apriority Dominates Allowance Foes
Apriority left little doubt that trainer David Fawkes has a second top-class sprinter Saturday with a dominating 4-1/2-length victory in the eighth race at Gulfstream. The stablemate of 2010 Eclipse Award-winning Big Drama missed breaking the track record for 6-1/2 furlongs by three-hundredths of a second in the $61,500 allowance race
The 4-year-old son of Grand Slam, who was the 6-5 favorite in a field of five, stumbled leaving the gate from his rail post position before chasing the pace contested by long shots Dream of Atlantis and Dabnabit. When the pacesetters began to tire, jockey Luis Saez sent Apriority to the lead along the rail on the turn into the homestretch. Apriority drew away from his rivals with authority, completing the distance in 1:14.47, just missing Forest Danger’s 2005 track record of 1:14.44.
“The jockey did a heck of a job with this horse after the break,” Fawkes said. “This horse was dragging him around there. I know it was a short field, but this horse was really impressive.”
Fawkes said Apriority’s next race will be in either the seven-furlong Carter Handicap (G1) at Aqueduct on April 9 or the six-furlong Count Fleet (G3) at Oaklawn Park on April 14.
“Our focus is on Hot Springs, but maybe the Carter,” said Fawkes, whose winner was coming off a narrow loss in the $200,000 Sunshine Millions Sprint at Santa Anita.
Fawkes is hopeful that Big Drama will be ready to run in the Carter after being given a break following his track-record-breaking victory in the Mr. Prospector (G3) at Gulfstream on Jan. 15.
“I don’t know if he’ll make the Carter, that’s why this horse might step in his place if he doesn’t get there,” said Fawkes. “I’ll keep the two horses separated, but I think this horse is a little better going a little longer.”