McGaughey, Pletcher 3-Year-Olds Graduate in Style at Gulfstream
Conquest Warrior Overcomes Troubled Trip with Impressive Rally
Turn Up the Trees Prevails in Debut Despite Less-Than-Ideal Trip
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Hall of Fame trainers Shug McGaughey and Todd Pletcher visited the Gulfstream Park winner’s circle Saturday following highly impressive graduation performances by 3-year-olds Conquest Warrior and Turn Up the Trees, respectively.
Courtlandt Farms’ Conquest Warrior ($9) overcame a troubled start that left him trailing the 10-horse field on the backstretch with a stunning wide stretch drive to prevail by a half-length over Pletcher-trained Antiquarian in Race 9, a mile maiden special weight event.
The McGaughey-trained son of City of Light, who had a slow start in his debut before finishing third Dec. 2 at Aqueduct, was also briefly held up in traffic on the turn into the homestretch before unleashing a powerful stretch rally. The $1 million Keeneland September sale purchase ran a mile in 1:38.57 over a fast main track with Jose Ortiz aboard.
“I was surprised he broke the way he did. I knew he’d be back and then finish,” McGaughey said. “I was surprised by the effort he put in today with the trip he had for a young horse.”
McGaughey said he would look for an allowance race ‘and take it from there.’
Pletcher unveiled St. Elias Stable’s Turn Up the Trees, a half-length debut winner over 50-1 long shot pacesetter Celtic Pride in Race 6, a maiden special weight for sophomores. The winning time was 1:12.20 for six furlongs over a fast main track.
“I think he’s still got a lot to learn. He didn’t break great. We wanted to get some early position so [jockey John Velazquez] had to use him a little bit and it looked like he was kind of kept to task throughout. I think he’s going to benefit a lot from having the race.”
Turn Up the Trees fetched $500,000 as a yearling at Keeneland in September 2022. His sire is millionaire Liam’s Map, who won six of eight races including the 2015 Woodward (G1) and Dirt Mile for Pletcher.
“He had been training well. I thought his last gate work was very promising, so he came in with high hopes,” Pletcher said. “Anytime you can win first time out, you don’t take that for granted.”
Pletcher also ran third in Race 6 with another first-timer, Seventeen Twenty Racing Stable, Repole Stable, Michael Wagner and Jackpot Farm’s Maximus Speed, a gelded son of Runhappy.
“He made a late move and closed well to get up for third,” Pletcher said. “I thought that was encouraging.”
Centennial Farms’ Antiquarian, also trained by Pletcher who was caught late by Conquest Warrior, was making his debut in Race 9. The son of Preservationist was purchased for $250,000 at the Keeneland September sale.