Stars of Yesterday: Looking Back at Best Arkansas Derby Winners
Gufo, Malathaat, Jack Christopher Among Shining Stars on Travers DayRacingContent provided by BloodHorse
Since dropping a head decision to Domestic Spending in the Saratoga Derby Invitational Stakes in the summer of his 3-year-old year, the gambling public knows that when Gufo is in the race, a top-three finish is sure to follow. The remarkably consistent son of Declaration of War has been out of the money only twice in 19 career starts, and following his repeat victory in the Aug. 27, $750,000 Resorts World Casino Sword Dancer Stakes, Gufo has now captured Grade 1s as a 3-, 4-, and 5-year-old.
“He loves this turf here [at Saratoga Race Course],” said a breathless jockey Joel Rosario after the Sword Dancer.
Gufo, with his mammoth-sized stature and massive stride, is like an old-fashioned freight train; it takes time to get it going, but once it’s moving, it’s nearly impossible to stop. Rosario admitted he had to scrub fairly hard on the chestnut three furlongs out, but once the engine was ignited, Gufo roared past his rivals.
“He’s been a very good horse these past three years. Unfortunately, in his last race, sometimes he has a tendency to drop too far out of it,” trainer Christophe Clement said. “I took the blinkers off because he trained so forwardly earlier on in the year. As the year went on, he became lazier and lazier. Today, he had a great trip. He was never that far back and he was traveling well. When Joel [Rosario] asked him, he exploded in the stretch. I’m delighted.”
Stepping into the gate for the Sword Dancer, a race that a year Gufo claimed by a tenacious neck over European invader Japan, the 5-year-old was coming off an uncharacteristic fifth-place finish in the July 23 United Nations Stakes at Monmouth Park. Although he didn’t hit the board, he still ran respectably in defeat, beaten by only 2 1/2 lengths.
Under Rosario, the regular pilot of Gufo in his last 11 starts, Gufo settled into seventh position through most of the 1 1/2-mile journey. The steadfast front-runner Tribhuvan carved out quarter-mile splits of :24.39, :48.98, and 1:13.99 on an uncontested lead, and it wasn’t until the top of the stretch when the two-time Grade 1 winner was finally challenged and overtaken by Mira Mission.
The hard-luck Mira Mission, running a performance adjacent to his runner-up finish to Santin in the Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic in May, was nailed in the final 70 yards by the hard-charging Gufo.
“We really thought it was his day today,” jockey Julien Leparoux said of Mira Mission. “He ran a good race and tried hard. He ran a winning race and I’m very happy with the trip we had. No excuse.”
Gufo, a half-length better than Mira Mission at the finish line, ran the 1 1/2 miles in 2:28.92 on a turf course rated as good.
Late Rally Propels Malathaat in Personal Ensign
Shadwell Stable’s Malathaat returned to her winning ways with a powerful rally Aug. 27 in the $600,000 Personal Ensign Stakes on the Runhappy Travers Stakes undercard.
Champion 3-year-old filly of 2021, the now 4-year-old daughter of Curlin reeled in Search Results in midstretch to ace the 1 1/8-mile race under John Velazquez after that rival took the lead from Letruska, the champion older dirt female of 2021.
Those two completed the trifecta behind Malathaat’s final time of 1:48.30.
The winner, trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, paid $8.40 to win.
Malathaat came off runner-up efforts in the July 24 Shuvee Stakes and June 11 Ogden Phipps Stakes. She found the winner’s circle for the first time since her April 22 victory in the Baird Doubledogdare Stakes at Keeneland. Malathaat added the Personal Ensign along with 2021 victories in the Alabama Stakes, Longines Kentucky Oaks, and Central Bank Ashland Stakes as the Grade 1 victories on her resume.—Tim Wilkin
Jack is Back in Impressive Jerkens Score
Rebounding from his first defeat when third in the 1 1/8-mile TVG.com Haskell Stakes, Jack Christopher improved to 5-for-5 in one-turn races with a decisive victory over Gunite in the $500,000 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial Stakes.
The 3-year-old son of Munnings, owned by Jim Bakke, Gerald Isbister, Coolmore Stud, and Peter Brant, raced seven furlongs in 1:21.15, just .20 of a second slower than the time of 4-year-old Cody’s Wish in winning the Forego Stakes earlier on the Saturday card.
Chasing early quarter-mile fractions of :22.18 and :45.53 set by Conagher, he took command under Jose Ortiz at the head of the stretch and maintained a safe lead over Gunite, who rallied to within a length and a quarter at the finish of the Grade 1 race.
“I think he ran great turning back to seven [furlongs],” Ortiz said of Jack Christopher. “I think the race was better than what it looked on paper. We got some decent horses.
“Four weeks [rest] and he ran huge. He gave me everything he had and a very good race. Honestly, thought he was a little offbeat down the backside but at the three-eighths pole he picked up little by little and I knew when I got next to [Conagher], I knew I got him. From then on, he just kept going at the same pace. I knew if he didn’t stop, he was going to run them off their feet because he was running the whole way.”
Inside-stalking Runninsonofagun finished third, and Conagher weakened to fourth.
Chad Brown trains the winner, who returned $3.10 as the heavy favorite.
“Exiting the Haskell, that was going to be our plan if he didn’t win and cut him back to this prestigious race here,” Brown said. “I’m just so proud of the horse. He’s been a very consistent horse. He’s never disappointed us in a workout or a race.”—Byron King
Cody’s Wish Stuns Jackie’s Warrior in Forego Fairytale
Sometimes dreams come true.
Not always, yet for teenager Cody Dorman, a bond with a colt named Cody’s Wish has become the kind of heart-warming tale deserving of a Hollywood movie.
Born with Wolf-Hirschhorn Syndrome, Dorman became fond of an unnamed foal he first saw at Godolphin’s Gainsborough Farm during Keeneland’s Make-A-Wish Day in 2018. Godolphin representatives were so moved by Dorman’s feelings for the horse that they named the homebred son of Curlin in his honor.
A winner of five of his first nine starts for trainer Bill Mott, Cody Wish’s had become a Grade 3 victor for his biggest fan, but on Saturday at Saratoga, the now 4-year-old colt gave Dorman as big of a thrill as there could on the racetrack when he upset reigning sprint champion Jackie’s Warrior to capture the $589,000 Forego Stakes to join the coveted ranks of Grade 1 winners.
“This story has been absolutely unbelievable. It’s a Disney story,” said Michael Banahan, director of bloodstock for Godolphin USA.—Bob Ehalt
Technical Analysis Strikes in Ballston Spa
Technical Analysis controlled the pace and had more to give when called upon Aug. 27 in the $388,000 Ballston Spa Stakes.
The 4-year-old Kingman filly held off the late run of fellow Chad Brown trainee Fluffy Socks to secure the second Grade 2 of her career and her fourth graded score for Seth Klarman’s Klaravich Stables. She returned to winning ways after settling for second July 16 to another Brown-trained runner, In Italian, in the Grade 1 Diana Stakes at the Spa.
Jockey Jose Ortiz rationed out the speed of Technical Analysis after breaking from post-position 5 in a field of as many racing 1 1/16 miles on a turf course rated good. The bay filly posted quarter-mile fractions of :24.47, :48.92, and 1:12.87 under little pressure.
“I knew she was the lone speed, so I just broke there and got a good jump out of the gate,” Ortiz said. “She was very nervous prior to the race, so I tried to keep her quiet in the post parade. She broke good, put me there, and handled the soft going nicely.” —Claire Crosby