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Morning Calm Goes the Distance in $60,000 Raymond Earl Handicap

May 25, 2015

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – No trainer could have been more excited than Michelle Nihei when the Gulfstream Park condition book offered the $60,000 Raymond Earl Handicap for Monday’s Memorial Day card. The 1 ½-mile turf feature, after all, fell perfectly into Morning Calm’s wheelhouse.

“He’s screaming for that kind of distance,” said Nihei in the Gulfstream Park winner’s circle following Morning Calm’s authoritative late-running 3 ½-length victory under Eddie Castro.
Coming off a late-closing victory in a 1 7/16-mile optional claiming allowance on April 4, Morning Calm had no difficulty producing a winning stretch kick despite a relatively slow pace during the early going of the $60,000 handicap.
“I have to say that I wasn’t [worried], really. As long as he stays in contact with the field, I know that horse can outkick anybody,” Nihei said. “It’s just a matter of timing and a matter of position, and Eddie made all the right decisions.”
Sent to post as the 4-5 favorite in a field of six, Morning Calm settled off the pace set by Tap and Trade, who ran the first six furlongs in 1:17.74 and a mile in 1:42.56 over a firm course before tiring. On the turn into the homestretch, Morning Calm swept four wide to the lead and drew off to victory. Best Plan Yet, the 120-pound highweight who carried a pound more than the winner, finished second after a ground-saving trip. Rizwan, the 2-1 second choice and only 3-year-old in the field, finished third after briefly taking the lead in the stretch.
Morning Calm ran 1 ½ miles in 2:29.33 while encouraging his trainer to seek out other long-distance opportunities.
“It’s clearly what he likes best,” Nihei said. “He has to play to that strength.” 

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