HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Blofeld made a late surge along the rail to edge stablemate Stanford by a head to capture Saturday’s $500,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2), finally living up to the promise the 4-year-old son of Malibu Moon showed as a juvenile.
Owned by Glencrest Farm LLC and JSM Equine LLC, Blofeld returned $21.40 to lead a four-horse Todd Pletcher-trained contingent that yielded a 1-2-4-5 placing in the seven-horse field for the 72nd running of the mile handicap. Pletcher was also represented by Anchor Down, who finished third and was placed fourth for interfering with favored Valid, and fifth-place finisher Itsaknockout.
Blofeld, who had returned from a layoff of nearly seven months to finish fourth in an optional claiming allowance at Gulfstream Jan. 27, ran the one-turn mile in 1:35.03 under Hall of Famer John Velazquez.
“We were expecting a big performance from him. I thought he got a race off the layoff, so we were looking for a big effort from him,” said Pletcher, whose victorious trainee had been winless since capturing his first three races during a juvenile season that included back-to-back scores in the Futurity (G2) and Nashua (G2). “It’s nice to see him get back to the form we knew he was capable of.”
Anchor Down set the pace under Jose Lezcano along the backstretch, pressed along the inside by Stanford and stalked by Valid, the 6-5 favorite ridden by Nik Juarez. Leaving the turn into the homestretch, Stanford moved to the lead under Javier Castellano, closely tracked by Blofeld, as Valid launched a four-wide stretch run that was stopped short when he clipped heels with a tiring Anchor Down, who had drifted out in mid-stretch. Valid stumbled badly but managed to stay on his feet to finish fourth, as Blofeld kicked in to overtake Stanford nearing the finish line.
"It was a perfect trip. He broke well enough. Normally you have to break and put him into the race. He got into the race nicely,” Velazquez said. “Then I just had to bide my time and figure out which way to go. When Javier took out at the eighth pole, it was my time to go back inside and he ended up getting there.”
Anchor Down finished third, another 1 ¼ lengths back and 2 ½ lengths ahead of Valid, but he was subsequently placed fourth behind the beaten favorite.
“It wasn’t a fair fight. We were making a great move. It looked like we were going to win the race until [Anchor Down] took us out,” said Valid’s trainer Marcus Vitali. “I just looked at the horse for a minute, and he looked all right.”
Valid, the 119-pound highweight, most recently had finished second behind the Pletcher-trained Mshawish in the Donn Handicap (G1) at Gulfstream Park Feb. 6.
“It was a tough call. It was one of those things where it looked like Valid lugged in a little bit and our horse came out just a tick,” Pletcher said. “It’s just one of those things, just bad timing. It’s unfortunate for him, but Valid’s an awfully good horse.”
Runner-up Stanford most recently had finished second behind stablemate Tommy Macho in the Fred Hooper (G3) at Gulfstream Feb. 6.
“He almost got there. Tough beat. He took the worst of it from the one post and kind of had to work hard the whole way,” Pletcher said. “It looked like he had just gotten there and Blofeld caught him on the money.”
Itsaknockout turned in his second straight disappointing effort after opening the Championship Meet with a sharp optional claiming allowance victory by nearly five lengths.
“It was a little disappointing again. It looked like he was getting a good trip but just finished evenly,” Pletcher said. “We’ll see how he bounces out of this. He’s by Lemon Drop Kid. We’ve had in the back of our minds at some point we might try turf.”
Pletcher said he had no definite plans for any of his Gulfstream Park Handicap starters.