HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - The sun was shining on Gulfstream Park ‘s turf course, labeled good after a week of thunder showers, for Snow Top Mountain to capture the Suwannee River Handicap (G3). The grey mare completed the 1 1/8 miles stake in 1:52.86, a half length over Hit It Rich and Gold d’Oro.
The 5-year-old mare rated off the pace in seventh, 1 ½ lengths off the leader Speak Easy Gal. Snow Top Mountain got within a half length of the lead after running three-quarters of a mile before jockey Jose Lezcano, looking for some running room, swung the grey mare wide to ensure a clear path and was victorious by a half length.
“The race set up perfectly for us,” said Lezcano. “I sat back off the speed duel. She handled the soft turf very well and I think the 1 1/8 mile distance is perfect for her.”
Snow Top Mountain, trained by Tom Proctor, had a race under her belt at Tampa Bay Downs to start her 2012 campaign. In that 1 1/16-mile allowance turf event was just a neck shy of the victory.
“We’ve kind of considered her a little sister (to owner-breeder Barbar Hunter’s 6-year-old multiple stakes winner Keertana), but after this race we might have to reconsider,” said Proctor. “That was a solid field and with five or six in there that look like they are solid Grade 3 horses.”
With this victory, Proctor can now take his time to choose where Snow To Mountain’s next start may be.
“She’s versatile, so there are plenty of options out there for her and Keertana, and we have (Glen Hill Farm’s) Marketing Mix for the same kind of races as well,” stated Proctor. “It’s a good problem to have. I’m not one to make a lot of plans ahead for the horses. We’ll just see what comes along.”
The second place finisher, Hit It Rich, trained by Shug McGaugheywas making her first start of 2012. The daughter of Smart Strike was coming into the race off two consecutive victories, an allowance win over Keeneland’s main track in October and a 1 ½ length victory in the Long Island Handicap (G3) at Aqueduct in November.
“We’re pleased with her race,” McGaughey said. “We were giving four pounds to the winner and we did all the dirty work- running up behind the speed. We just couldn’t hold off the winner. This proves she’s legitimate.”
It was a 1 ¼-length back to third place finisher, Gold d’Oro. Trained by Bill Mott, the Medaglia d’Oro mare raced off the pace in sixth after breaking slowly. She saved ground throughout, got within a head of the leaders, and crossed the wire a length and a half behind in third.
“She ran really well,” Mott said. “I don’t think the soft, soft turf is ideal for her, but she made a nice run.”
Trainer Christophe Clements trainee, Denomination, was sent off as the 5/2 favorite. She raced in last, about five lengths off the pace, throughout but didn’t have quite enough to catch the leaders. The bay mare finished fifth.
“We only got beat about two lengths,” said Clement. “It was an average race. She had a lot to do. We just couldn’t make up that kind of ground on that kind of turf course. We will regroup and I’ll probably run her once more.”
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