Munnys Gold strolls to the win by 17-3/4 lengths in the Stonehedge Farm South Sophomore Fillies Stakes. (Ben Baugh Photo)
Munnys Gold establishes new track record, Zydeceaux and Otago among stakes winners on Florida Cup Day.
By Ben Baugh
OLDSMAR, FL—Spectators never anticipated what it was they were about to see Sunday afternoon.
Robert and Lawana Low’s Munnys Gold turned in a track record performance, establishing a new benchmark with a time of 1:20.09, and scoring a 17 ¼-length victory in the 20th edition of the Stonehedge Farm South Sophomore Fillies Stakes, eclipsing the previous stakes record for the 7-furlong distance, 1:20.89, that had been set by Grade One winner Win Win Win, who had set the former record while winning the Pasco Stakes in 2019. Hall of Fame conditioner Todd Pletcher trained the winner, and 4-time Eclipse Award winning jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. was up on racing’s new golden girl.
“(It was a) super performance, we’re very pleased,” said Pletcher, in a text Sunday afternoon.
The field boasted stakes winners Dreaming of Snow and Lynx and stakes placed Awesome Pic. The daughter of Munnings was coming off a 2-month layoff. She has now won all three of her starts, and more impressively by a combined 38 lengths, serving as harbinger for what appears to be a bright future.
“She broke good today, much better than last time,” said Ortiz, Jr., who had ridden Munnys Gold in her second start. “I asked a little bit of her because I knew I had speed (Awesome Pic) on the outside of me. I just tried to ride her and relax her. We went a little farther and she wasn’t fighting with me. I did ask a little of her and she did respond, so I decided to bide my time, when we were turning for home, she responded when asked.”
The dark bay filly, who had broken her maiden at first asking at Monmouth Park by 14 1/2-lengths last summer, won her sophomore debut on January 25, 2023, at Gulfstream Park, going 6-furlongs, winning an allowance race with ease, by 6 1/4-lengths.
“She came from a long layoff,” said Ortiz, Jr. “She went pretty nice, but we didn’t ask anything of her (in her previous start). Today, it was a little more of a test with the quality of these fillies and she did it. She looked very special.”
Stakes placed Otago scored his second career victory, and first added money score in his sophomore debut, as he won the 20th running of the 11/16-miles Equistaff Sophomore Turf Stakes. Crown’s Way Racing, LLC, NBS Stable, Eduard Dalava and Eli Diamant own the winner. Kelsey Danner trains Otago, who was piloted by Antonio Gallardo, who has won 5-riding titles at Tampa Bay Downs.
“The Florida-breds have helped me out a lot,” said Danner. “I have a lot of Florida-breds, and it’s nice to finally win a Florida-bred stakes. He showed grit and relaxed a little bit today, so that helped out.”
Danner also had a chestnut son of Bucchero in The Equistaff Sophomore Turf Stakes field, Anamnestic, who despite a troubled trip turned in a solid effort, taking some of her focus away from Otago’s neck victory over post time favorite Boppy O.
“I was a little concerned about my other horse being stuck in traffic that finished fourth,” said Danner. “He kind of got into some traffic issues behind him. I was a little bit more concerned about that at the time. I love that colt (Anamnestic)…he just had a rough trip today. If the rail or something had opened up; he would have been right there too.”
Otago was coming off a 5-month layoff, and looked sharp in his sophomore debut, after making four starts as a juvenile, at four different tracks.
“I gave him 60 days in the field, I turned out most of my turf horses after they ran in the fall, just kicked him out, he came back great,” said Danner. “He had a little bit of a foot issue, so he missed two breezes, which was a little bit of a concern. He’s big, he does a lot of two-mile gallops, so he had enough base in him.”
The bay son of Speightstown turned in an impressive effort in his stakes bow last fall, finishing second in the Laurel Futurity.
“At Laurel when he broke his maiden, we had to kind of push him up into the race,” said Danner. “It probably wasn’t the best thing for him mentally because of the dirt, slop and speed bias. (We put him back on the) turf, so then we went to Keeneland and then we were trying to get him back off the bit and settle, and he didn’t quite have the concept yet. We gave him some time off, and coming back, we’ve kept everything real slow, and try not to get that switch to go off too much.”
It was the first time Antonio Gallardo has had the opportunity to ride Otago, and he was given explicit instructions by Danner to be circumspect in his actions, as the colt has a tendency to get a bit rank when he gets away from the competition.
“I tried to be patient because I knew I had the horse,” said Gallardo. “He ran pretty well.”
Stud Carmen Cristina, LLC’s Zydeceaux picked up his second stakes win of the meet, adding the 20th running of the 7-furlong Ocala Breeders’ Sales Sophomore Stakes to his growing resume. The Ramon Minguet charge had been a powerful presence this winter, winning the Pasco Stakes and then made starts in the Grade Three Sam F. Davis Stakes and the Grade Three Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby. Samuel Marin was in the irons Sunday as he was in his past three stakes races. Zydeceaux won Saturday’s sprint by 1 ¼-lenghts. The owner and trainer decided to go out on a limb with yet another stakes start at Tampa Bay Downs, and they rewarded handsomely for their endeavor.
“The strategy was that he had the speed,” said owner Jose Carrilo, Stud Carmen Cristina. “He showed today that he still has his speed, and maybe he can build off of this race. We had some doubts after his two previous performances, two weeks ago, we ran a very hard race, and we took a chance today and he showed that he was ready. Now, he’ll get some time off and move onto Gulfstream Park. Maybe seven furlongs is a good distance.”