Coming around the stretch turn Atone, and Ortiz Jr. (third from left aqua and yellow cap) get ready to make their move for the lead. (Jetta Vaughns)
David Joseph/Gulfstream Park
HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Trainer Mike Maker reported Sunday that Three Diamonds Farm’s Atone emerged well from his breakthrough victory in Saturday’s $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1) presented by Qatar Racing at Gulfstream Park.
Ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., who won his third consecutive Pegasus Turf after back-to-back victories aboard Colonel Liam, Atone saved ground in mid-pack for the first half of the 1 1/8-mile race before being tipped out for a clear run at the top of the stretch and reeling in Group 1 winner Ivar nearing the wire.
“He came out of it in good order,” Maker said. “It’s impossible not to be impressed by the way he ran.”
Atone was just the sixth horse to run in the Pegasus Turf more than once, following Next Shares (2019-21), Sacred Life (2020, 2022), Channel Cat (2020, 2022), Cross Border (2021-22) and Colonel Liam (2021-22). Cross Border was also trained by Maker.
Before the Pegasus Turf, Atone had gone winless with three seconds and a third in eight graded-stakes attempts, and also finished fourth last year in the Maker’s Mark Mile (G1) and Pegasus Turf, beaten less than three lengths combined.
“I was very happy for him,” Maker said. “The Pegasus race is always very special and for a horse that’s always been knocking on the door and not quite getting there, it really meant a lot.”
Maker won the Pegasus Turf in 2020 with Michael Hui’s Zulu Alpha. Three Diamonds Farm has been involved in racing since the mid-2000s with its name derived from Kirk and Debra Wycoff’s three children.
“Michael Hui has been a longtime client and a good friend so it’s always special to win for him, and I can say the same for Three Diamonds,” Maker said. “They’ve been a long-time supporter of mine, so to win any big race for those guys is always very, very special.”
Atone’s race in the Pegasus Turf was his first since a front-running triumph in a 1 1/8-mile optional claiming allowance Nov. 10 on the Aqueduct turf. He went into last year’s race having run second in the Fort Lauderdale (G2) six weeks prior at Gulfstream.
“I thought [the time off] did him a world of good,” Maker said. “He runs well fresh and [Saturday] was no exception.”
Maker mentioned the Muniz Memorial Classic (G2) March 25 at Fair Grounds and Turf Classic (G1) May 6 at Churchill Downs as possible upcoming targets for Atone, who passed the $1 million mark in career earnings with his Pegasus Turf victory. He stands at $1,179,146 with seven wins, four wins and four seconds from 23 starts.
Atone capped a huge day at Gulfstream for Maker, who also ran sixth in the Pegasus Turf with 74-1 long shot King Cause. Earlier in the day, Maker won the Fred W. Hooper (G3) with Endorsed and finished first, second, third and fifth in the William L. McKnight (G3) led by winner Red Knight.
On the day, Maker had three wins, one second and two thirds and earned $846,300 in purses. Prior to that he had a record of 29-4-3-4 with $154,615 in purses earned at the Championship Meet, which opened Dec. 26.
“It was a great day,” Maker said. “We were kind of in a slump there and to break out of it in that fashion felt great.”