HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - Favored Catalina Red made a stylish return to the races in the $75,000 Jackson Bend Stakes at Gulfstream Park Saturday for owner Anthony Lenci and trainer Chad Stewart. Allowed to settle into stride as stablemates Looks Good and Big Awesome battled up front, the flashy son of Munnings shifted into gear turning for home and forged clear in the final furlong under jockey Daniel Centeno. Catalina Red ($5.00) stopped the clock in 1:22.88 for his third victory in seven career outings.
"I thought it was a good race for his first race back," Stewart said. "I was expecting a big effort from him. I wouldn't have had Danny [Centeno] come down if I didn't think he was going to run well."
Catalina Red was still in fifth after a hotly contested half-mile in :45.60, but moved into contention with a four-wide bid on the turn and settled the matter soon after. Looks Good, making only his third lifetime start, remained well clear of the others to complete the $58.00 exacta.
Centeno added, “I had a very good trip, we had a great start, Chad told me he’s been training really well and was ready to run, as soon as I reached the backside I looked behind me and no one was coming, then he took off."
Based in Ocala, Catalina Red scored by 7 1/4 lengths in the Inaugural Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on December 6, and his connections admittedly got Triple Crown fever following his subsequent success in the Pasco Stakes three weeks later. However, the Florida-bred colt was vanned off following his fifth-place finish in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes on January 31, and Stewart decided to freshen up his speedy charge.
"I ran him in the Sam Davis, and we just kind of pushed him along," the conditioner explained. "Everybody was getting in the Derby spirit, and I just thought he needed some time off after that to get a mental break. I'll have to talk with the owner and see what they want to do with him from here."
Golden Rifle Takes Eight Miles East
Miller Racing's Golden Rifle ($16.00) shot past favored pacesetter Joes Blazing Aaron to secure the $75,000 Eight Miles East Stakes for trainer Martin Wolfson. Rider Tyler Gaffalione positioned the 5-year-old son of Ghostzapper in second in the early stages, then gave his mount the cue in the homestretch. Golden Rifle was timed in 1:42.89 for the 8 1/2-furlong event. Joes Blazing Aaron settled for the runner-up spot over My Point Exactly.
"The trainer told me just be patient with the horse," said Gaffalione. "He said, 'You know the horse, you rode him before, and you know how he likes to run, he likes to be close, but don’t let them get too far.'"
Miller Racing claimed Golden Rifle for $25,000 in December. Since then, he has recorded two wins from six tries for his connections. Both of those victories came in wire-to-wire fashion over the Gulfstream Park grass, including a game victory under Gaffalione last time in an optional-claiming test on May 28. The consistent Kentucky-bred has compiled an 18-7-4-2 career mark while earning $275,004.
Later on the card, Miller Racing ran one-two in the $75,000 Soaring Softly Stakes with Lori's Store ($10.40) defeating stablemate E B Ryder. The 5-year-old daughter of El Prado was drawn wide in the starting gate, and was unhurried through the opening half-mile under jockey Harry Hernandez. After making an eye-catching move on the far turn, she rallied up the center of the course to hit the wire three-quarters of a length in front of fellow Marty Wolfson trainee E B Ryder. She recorded a time of 1:39.78 for a mile over the rain-softened course.
It was the second straight stakes victory for Lori's Store, who notched the Spook Express Stakes in similar fashion on the Summit of Speed undercard on July 5. Miller Racing purchased her privately from breeder Glen Hill Farm in late December, and this was the gray mare's third victory for her new connections. Lori's Store has now won six of 22 career races and has bankrolled $213,270.
"She was a really nice buy," said Wolfson, who was unconcerned about being drawn in the 12 hole. "The post position didn’t hurt her. It doesn’t affect her style. She comes from far back."
Venezuelan sensation Ninfa Del Cielo had been slated to make her North American debut on the main track, but went into the Soaring Softly instead to make her initial turf excursion. Well back early, she made up some ground late to finish seventh, 11 lengths behind the winner.
"The grass here was soft today, not great for her, the filly's better on dirt," said trainer Oscar Gonzalez. "We tried to get her in (dirt) races, but they didn't fill. We're using the race to build on. For now we will stay here and see how she comes out of it."
Ninfa Del Cielo had won eight of 10 starts in her native Venezuela, including the Triple Crown for fillies and the Clasico Internacional del Caribe against males on December 7.