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By Brian Skirka
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - He’s won stakes races at six furlongs, nine furlongs and at seven furlongs, and in Saturday’s Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2), Luis Olivares’ Tackleberry added an eight-furlong stakes score to his resume.
Sent off the 9-2 fourth betting choice in the field of eight, Tackleberry set early fractions of 24.59 and 47.68 seconds before opening a clear lead in the stretch and holding on to a neck victory over Soaring Empire and Tizway.
“The trainer told me to go to the front no matter what,” said winning rider Javier Santiago. “He said ‘if you need to use him in the beginning, use him. I want to see him in front.’ He’s a very special horse. My horse, when he goes to the front, he likes to fight. My horse saw the horse on the outside and that was it.”
A 4-year-old gelding by Montbrook, Tackleberry ran the one mile over a fast main track in 1:35.23 and returned $11.00, $5.20, and $3.80. The exacta with Soaring Empire returned $46.20.
“I expected there to be plenty of pace in the race,” said jockey Jose Lezcano, who piloted Soaring Empire. “But nobody went with the winner. I had to sit back and in the stretch, my horse ran on, but the winner had something left.”
With his third stakes win of the Gulfstream meet, Tackleberry improved his career record to 8-2-0 from 12 starts. The $180,000 winner’s share of the purse bumped his lifetime earnings over $750,000.
Joes Blazing Aaron Upsets Again in Palm Beach
Joes Blazing Aaron only beat $50,000 claimers when he scored at 73-1 odds on Feb. 17, so who could have expected the 3-year-old gelding would pull off yet another front-running upset in Saturday’s $150,000 Palm Beach (G3) at Gulfstream Park?
Trainer Allen Hunter Jr. had confidence in Joes Blazing Aaron, but was counting on the surprise factor in his stakes debut.
“We were hoping he wouldn’t get any respect, and the plan was to go to the lead. When no one went with him, I was pretty confident he’d go on just like he did last time,” Hunter said after Joes Blazing Aaron scored a gate-to-wire victory by 1-3/4 lengths in the 1-1/8-mile turf stakes for 3-year-olds at 11-1.
Joes Blazing Aaron ($25.40) went right to the front under jockey Orlando Bocachica and was never seriously challenged while running the two-turn distance in 1:47 4/5.
“Last time I went to the front with him he won and paid $100, so I wanted to do the same thing,” Bocachica said. “When I asked him to run I knew I could win it because I had a lot of horse.”
Queen’splatekitten, the 5-2 favorite ridden by John Velazquez, closed to finish second, a head in front of Newsdad and jockey Jesus Castanon.
Joes Blazing Aaron had only won one of his first seven starts on dirt before debuting on turf in spectacular fashion on Feb. 17.
“The first foal of the dam of this horse I think was stakes-placed in France, so we always planned to give him a chance on turf at some point,” Hunter said. “There are lots of opportunities for him now and we’ll probably look at the Transylvania at Keeneland next (Apr. 8).”