HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – After a couple close calls, Harrell Ventures LLC’s Halladay broke through with his first stakes victory in Saturday’s $75,000 Tropical Park Derby at Gulfstream Park.
Halladay ($8.60), who finished third in the Nov. 29 Gio Ponti Stakes at Aqueduct after coming in third in the English Channel at Belmont Park, put it all together in the a 1 1/16-mile stakes for 3-year-olds run over a turf course rated ‘good.’
“He’s a hard horse to ride. He’s very keen the first part of the race and pulls too much the first part of the race. Finally, the last two races. He’s shown a totally different dimension. He was left last time, got squeezed out of there and relaxed behind horses and ran a really game race,” Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez said. “Today he broke well enough. He settled good enough that he was in hand and not trying to run off and going crazy. That was the difference today. I think if he learns [to relax]…he trains like a good horse. We just hope he continues going that way.”
After breaking alertly from the far outside in a field of 12, Halladay quickly put himself into the race approaching the first turn and pulled Velazquez past early pacesetter Notorious Nick to get an easy lead on the backstretch. Although keen to go during the first half mile, run in a sensible 49.61 seconds, the Todd Pletcher trainee settled on the lead and was never threatened thereafter.
“They were going so easy and he threw his ears up. When he made the lead, he wasn’t running off like crazy. He relaxed pretty well,” Velazquez said. “I was hoping when I asked him he’d quicken from there. He did, so it was very nice.”
Halladay ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:43 while drawing off to a 1 ¾ -length victory. Faraway Kitten closed well along the inside to finish second, a length ahead of a late running Temple, who was narrowly favored over Halladay at 3-1.
Via Gulfstream Park Press Release