Girl Dad Tenacious in John’s Call

August 25, 2022

Race was taken off-the-turf rendition 

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Three Diamonds Farm’s Girl Dad made his dirt and stakes debut a winning one in Wednesday’s $135,000 John’s Call, a restricted stake for older horses who have not won a graded stake on the turf this year. The race was originally slated for 1 5/8 miles on the Mellon turf course but was moved to 1 1/4 miles over the main track at Saratoga Race Course. 

Trained by Mike Maker, Girl Dad and stablemate Bluegrass Parkway engaged in a thrilling battle down the stretch, but it was the 4-year-old Girl Dad who got his head down at the right moment to secure his first stakes win in his 17th lifetime outing. 

Away well from the inside post under Luis Saez, Girl Dad tracked in third while post-time favorite Tide of the Sea and Oceans Map, who bobbled at the start, rushed up to the front. The two were stride for stride approaching the first turn, but Tide of the Sea quickly opened up under Hall of Famer Javier Castellano to lead by 2 1/2 lengths through an opening quarter-mile in 24.53 seconds over the fast main track. 

Tide of the Sea continued to hold his wide lead down the backstretch and marked off a half-mile in 50.86 before Tyler Gaffalione got to work aboard the slow-starting Bluegrass Parkway from the back of the pack. Girl Dad came under urging from Saez as the field rounded the turn through three-quarters in 1:16.08 and Tide of the Sea began to tire at the front. 

Bluegrass Parkway challenges Girl Dad down the stretch. (Chelsea Durand)

Exiting the turn, Tide of the Sea was engulfed by Girl Dad to his inside and Bluegrass Parkway to his outside as the two Maker trainees were set down for the drive to the wire with Tide of the Sea moving along to the rail to keep on and preserve show honors. 

Girl Dad and Bluegrass Parkway were stride for stride from the eighth pole on, with neither gelding willing to give an inch and their riders imploring them for more right down to the wire. Girl Dad successfully fended off his game stablemate by a head at the wire, completing the 1 1/4 miles in 2:06.34. 

Tide of the Sea finished 6 1/4 lengths behind in third with Oceans Map and Sa’ad rounding out the order of finish. Hieroglyphics was scratched.

Maker said he was relieved to find the winner’s circle after going 0-for-8 in stakes at the meet. 

“It’s taken me all meet to win a stake, so I’m very thankful,” said Maker. “Hopefully, it’s a sign of some good things to come. Both my horses ran winning races and unfortunately only one could win.” 

Saez said the race went exactly to his plan. 

“My strategy was to break from there and find a good spot. I knew Tide of the Sea was going to go to the lead, he’s pretty fast,” said Saez, who had ridden Tide of the Sea on several occasions. “So, we just tracked him and when we came to the top of the stretch, we cut the corner and he just kept going. He was really fighting, he liked to be with the competition. It was a great race.”

Saez added that he opted to stay inside rounding the turn when Bluegrass Parkway took up the outside position. 

“That was the choice because I tried to go out but the other one came right there so I couldn’t go,” Saez said. “I had to go inside and everything came out perfect. He handled it [dirt] really good. That was a great race.”

Girl Dad has gone from claim to fame for Maker and Kirk Wycoff’s Three Diamonds Farm, who haltered the son of Malibu Moon for $35,000 out of a close eighth-place finish on July 22 going one mile over the Spa turf for previous conditioner George Weaver. The John’s Call marked his first trip to the winner’s circle since a first-level optional claiming score last April at Tampa Bay Downs. 

Wycoff said Girl Dad’s breeding made him attractive in the claim box. 

“We claim a lot of horses, but they don’t always work out. We love Malibu Moon,” said Wycoff. “I always thought he was a dirt horse, but I didn’t really see him. It looked to me in his turf races that he was just too far behind. The original thought was to run him at a mile and three-eighths on the turf. But when we got him back to the barn, he’s such a big, strong horse.”

“Give credit to Mike Maker and his crew,” Wycoff added. “We took him down to Belmont and he had a couple of really good works on the dirt and the training track isn’t easy. That gave us some enthusiasm to run on dirt. We probably would have scratched if this race was on the turf, because there was a dirt race for him on September 5, which we are now not eligible for but that’s a good thing.”

Wycoff said that Girl Dad will likely stay on the main track after proving his abilities over dirt. 

“This is an off the turf race, so it was probably not that fast. We probably go in a two-other than, but a long race on the dirt,” said Wycoff. “He’s clearly going to stay on the dirt for us.”

Bred in Kentucky by Spendthrift Farm, Girl Dad returned $13.40 for a $2 win wager and earned $74,250 for his victory. He improved his record to 17-3-2-3 with total purse earnings of $162,892. He is the fifth foal to race out of the graded stakes-winning mare Flashy Lassie, who won the 2011 Grade 3 Debutante. 

Gaffalione said Bluegrass Parkway gave his all despite a slow break. 

“He didn’t get out of the gate too great,” Gaffalione said. “We sat back there and bided our time. He made his run. He was just second best today.”

Live racing resumes Thursday at Saratoga with a 10-race card, featuring the $135,000 Riskaverse in Race 9. First post is 1:05 p.m. Eastern. 

By Mary Eddy 
Main Photo by Susie Raisher

@jonathanstettin another excellent day for the man who does it best. Thx Jon &@Tracking_Trips. Hoping you have some thoughts for tomorrow!

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