Teaks North Roars To Grade I Victory In Gulfstream Turf
By Ed Gray
HALLANDALE, FL – After riding Teaks North to an upset victory in the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1) Saturday, Jose Valdivia Jr. pretty much shared the opinion of the bettors who sent the relatively unknown gelding to post at 25-1.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Valdivia, overjoyed with Teaks North’s unexpected ascension to Grade 1-stakes winner by the slightest of margins at the finish of the 1-1/8-mile turf stakes.
Valdivia, though, was quick to point out that the Florida-bred son of Northern Alfeet had plenty of room to improve over his most recent starts on dirt at Aqueduct.
“I just think he’s really coming into his own and is a really good turf horse,” he said. “I couldn’t have had a better trip. I just tipped him off horses and he finished up really strong.”
Teaks North ($52.60) and Valdivia parlayed a perfect trip into a nose victory over Smart Bid. Saving ground on the inside just behind Smart Bid along the backstretch as Little Mike set the pace, pressed by Get Stormy. While leaving the turn into the homestretch, Valdivia took Teaks North to the outside, while Edgar Prado sent Smart Bid for a small hole along the inside of tiring pacesetter Little Mike. As Smart Bid eased through the opening on his way to an apparent victory, the most overlooked horse in the field was able to build a momentum on the outside that would propel him to victory in the nick of time.
Trained by Justin Sallusto, Teaks North completed 1-1/8 miles in 1:46 1/5. Smart Bid finished a length ahead of third-place finisher Get Stormy. Battle of Hastings, the 6-5 favorite ridden by Julien Leparoux, closed to finish a never-threatening fourth.
“We were between running him in the Sunshine Millions Turf last weekend at Santa Anita or this race and decided this race might come up easier, and it looks like we made the right decision,” Sallusto said.
Teaks North, owned by Jules Boutelle, has demonstrated ability on turf in the past, winning an ungraded-stakes at Monmouth Park in August. He also won an overnight stakes at Aqueduct in October.
After Smart Bid came within a whisker of scoring his first Grade 1 victory, Prado offered no excuses.
“Everything worked out according to plan. We were in a great spot,” the Hall of Fame jockey said. “When I asked him, he kicked in and gave me all he could. We just lost on the wire. Unfortunately, that happens sometimes.”
Wolfson Mare ‘Queen’ of Suwannee River
Cherokee Queen has been a steady stakes-winning turf performer for trainer Marty Wolfson, but a graded-stakes triumph somehow avoided her…until Saturday.
The 6-year-old mare, who has encountered bad luck on more than one occasion in big stakes, enjoyed a stress-free trip under jockey Alex Solis in $150,000 Suwannee River (G3).
“This is her first graded-stakes win for us, which means a lot to her,” said Wolfson of Cherokee Queen’s enhanced value as a broodmare prospect for Farnsworth Stables.
Cherokee Queen ($11) saved ground while stalking the pace set by Persuading into the stretch run of the 1-1/8-mile turf race for fillies and mares. Solis swung out the daughter of Cherokee Run for the stretch run and she responded willingly to draw off to a two-length victory.
“Marty told me to try to keep her a little closer to the pace today. I was saving all the ground and just tried to be patient,” said Solis, who is enjoying a very successful meeting at Gulfstream Park. “Around the quarter pole I asked her to go and she did her thing.”
Cherokee Queen, who finished fourth in the Marshua’s River (G3) on Jan. 9, was clocked in 1:46 3/5 for her eighth career victory, earning the $90,000 winner’s share of the purse. Never Retreat closed from far back to finish second, a half-length ahead of Persuading.
“She got a little too far back last time. She wants to sit close like she did today and when she won the Dr. James Penny,” said Wolfson, referring to his mares triumph in the $200,000 ungraded stakes at Parx Racing last summer.”
Prior to her three-length victory in the Penny Stakes, Cherokee Queen was blocked in the stretch run in the Just a Game (G1) at Belmont Park, only to lose to the highly regarded Proviso by less than two lengths.
Promising 3-year-old Shines for Romans
Earlier on Saturday’s card, Shackleford made a victorious 2011 debut in an allowance for 3-year-olds, stamping himself as a candidate for the Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream on Feb. 26.
“He’s been a quality colt from the start. We got a little behind with him last year when he got sick at one point,” said trainer Dale Romans. “We had to rush him a little bit to get ready for this spot. The Fountain of Youth is now a strong possibility, but we’ll look at all the options.”
Shackleford ($11.20), who broke his maiden at Churchill Downs last fall, stalked the pace before drawing away in the stretch to win by 2-1/4 lengths under jockey Jesus Castanon. The son of Foresty ran 1-1/8 miles in 1:50. Casper’s Touch, the even-money favorite ridden by Julien Leparoux, close to finish second after a very troubled trip.