Sandiva (IRE) Scores First American Victory in Tropical Park Oaks
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL â€“ Following Sandivaâ€™s win in the $75,000 Tropical Park Oaks Saturday at Gulfstream Park, trainer Todd Pletcher expressed some feelings of irony.
The 3-year-old Irish-bred Sandiva, after enduring difficult trips and close finishes in each of her previous two starts since joining Pletcherâ€™s string from Europe, finally got the trip Pletcher had been seeking, and she scored her first American win â€“ and stakes win â€“ in the Tropical Park Oaks after breaking from the disadvantageous far outside 14-post.
â€œWe couldnâ€™t quite work out the trip weâ€™d been looking for the last two times, and, ironically today, from the worst post, we were able to get the trip,â€ Pletcher said.
Under Javier Castellano, the daughter of Footstepsinthesand (GB) was able to break sharply and settle in third along the rail behind pacesetters Party Now and Verdura. The Shug McGaughey-trained Party Now, favored in the field of 14, was allowed to run loose on the lead under a strong hold from John Velazquez, setting fractions of 24.73 seconds for a quarter-mile and 49.38 for the half. The slow pace allowed Velazquez to save some horse for the stretch, and Party Now fought on gamely, but Sandiva, a Group 3 winner in England, loomed large on the outside and was able to pass the favorite in deep stretch. She scored a neck victory over Party Now ($4.20, $2.60), who was Â¾-length better than the Kiaran McLaughlin-trained Dancing House ($3.00). Sandiva paid $10.60 for her victory; the final time for the 1 1/16-mile contest was 1:41.78.
â€œI would have been more concerned (about the pace) had she been farther back,â€ Pletcher said, â€œbut we were kind of fortunate enough to get to the first turn in about as good a position as we could have expected from the post we drew.â€
Castellano shared similar concerns about the potential roadblocks facing Sandiva in the race and was pleased that trouble never materialized.
â€œIt was a dream trip this time, but you never know how itâ€™s going to work out,â€ Castellano said. â€œMy main concern today was the 14 post. Thatâ€™s a lot to ask of a horse in a big field. It worked out great today. My horse helped me a lot running early and taking me to a good spot going into the first turn. The slow pace was a concern too. The filly pulled all the way and when I asked her she finished very strong. I loved the way she did it today.â€
Sandiva, owned by Al Shaqab Racing, went to California upon coming to America, but after finishing seventh in her North American debut in Julyâ€™s San Clemente Handicap (G2) at Del Mar, she was sent to the east coast to be with Pletcher. She finished fourth in the ungraded Pebbles Stakes at Belmont Park in October before closing from far back to be fifth in the Mrs. Revere Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs last month, only beaten a head for the show.
â€œI think her race at Churchill was actually better than it appeared,â€ Pletcher said. â€œShe might have been second-best on the day.â€
With each race and breeze, Pletcher saw improvement from the filly, and he expressed positive feelings prior to the Tropical Park Oaks, held at Gulfstream for the first time in 2014.
â€œWe think sheâ€™s a filly thatâ€™s finally found her groove here in the U.S., so weâ€™re hoping for a big year from her next year,â€ Pletcher said. â€œWe wonâ€™t rush anything. Weâ€™ll probably give her a little bit of freshening but look to run her back sometime during the meet.â€
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