Casse-trained Colt Takes â€˜Flightâ€™ in Stretch Run of Tropical Park Derby
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL â€“ Sky Flight captured his stakes debut in Saturdayâ€™s $75,000 Tropical Park Derby at Gulfstream Park, parlaying a perfectly executed ride by Jose Lezcano into his third straight victory.
Saddled by Norm Casse, assistant to trainer and father Mark Casse, Sky Flight prevailed over 25-1 pacesetter Cement Clement by a length following a powerful run through the stretch in the 1 1/16-mile turf event for 3-year-olds.
â€œThe race seemed to set up for us. He was going good and I wasnâ€™t going to rush him, ask him to do something he doesnâ€™t want to do,â€ Lezcano said. â€œHe was comfortable and when I asked him to run he closed really well.â€
Unraced at 2, the son of Sky Mesa debuted with a sixth-place finish in a 6 Â½-furlong race at Kentucky Downs on Sept. 13, before breaking his maiden at Keeneland and winning an entry-level allowance at Churchill Downs around two turns.
â€œEarlier on as a 2-year-old he had shown a lot of talent, but he came up with some baby issues and we backed off on him,â€ Norm Casse said. â€œEver since weâ€™ve got him back in full training, heâ€™s really progress well, every week, really. It seems like the skyâ€™s the limit and today was a big step.â€
After breaking from the rail post position, Sky Flight settled several lengths off the pace while saving ground as Cement Clement showed the way under Kaylia Albright. Despite setting solid half-mile fractions of :23.31 and :46.02 for the first half-mile, the pacesetter held onto the lead leaving the turn into the homestretch as Sky Flight was taken off the rail for a three-wide run between horses. Cement Clement opened a clear lead at the top of the stretch and appeared to be on his way to an upset victory when Sky Flight emerged from the back in mid-stretch and proved best through the closing yards.
â€œHeâ€™s been forwardly placed in his other races, but obviously the pace was a lot hotter today. Jose did the right thing and had him a little farther off the pace and it set up perfectly,â€ Casse said. â€œJose rode a great race.â€
Sky Flight, the 9-2 third choice owned by John Oxley, ran 1 1/16 miles over a firm turf course in 1:40.25. Cement Clement held gamely for second, a length ahead of late-running Smooth Daddy, the 5-2 favorite ridden by Javier Castellano. Other Cheek, the 3-1 second choice ridden by Julien Leparoux, faded to seventh after chasing the pace into the far turn.
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