Makes the Grade in $1 Million Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) Prep
Niko’s Dream Springs 13-1 Upset in $75,000 My Charmer
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Twin Creeks Racing Stables’ Largent put an exclamation point on a four-win afternoon for trainer Todd Pletcher, punching his ticket to next month’s $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) with a come-from-behind victory in Saturday’s $200,000 Fort Lauderdale (G2) at Gulfstream Park.
The 64th running of the 1 1/8-mile Fort Lauderdale for 3-year-olds and up on the grass was the headliner on an 11-race program featuring five stakes, four graded, worth $575,000 in purses including the $100,000 Harlan’s Holiday (G3), a prep for the $3 million Pegasus World Cup (G1) Jan. 23, won by Tax.
With Paco Lopez aboard for the first time, Largent ($35.80) swept to the lead on the far outside approaching the stretch and outran fellow longshots Breaking the Rules and Doswell late to win by two lengths in 1:46.16 over turf course rated good.
Since the Pegasus Turf was inaugurated in 2019, the Fort Lauderdale was moved from early January to mid-December to serve as the local stepping-stone to the Pegasus Day event. Eight of the 10 horses in Saturday’s field were stakes winners, six of them in graded company led by millionaire favorite Factor This.
“Very salty field, indeed, and very fast fractions,” Pletcher said. “[Largent] is a horse that’s generally laying up close. I just told Paco, ‘It looks like there’s a lot of pace, just try to sit in the pocket,’ and he delivered a very good ride.”
“One thing is, he’s always loved Gulfstream. He’s always run very well here and we just felt like it was the right time to step up,” he added. “He’d been training great and it was the right time to see if he could step up into a big spot.”
It was the third career stakes win and first in graded company for Largent, who captured a pair of Virginia-bred stakes earlier this year at Colonial Downs and Laurel Park. The 4-year-old Into Mischief gelding has now won four of his five starts at Gulfstream, with one second.
“He’s always run well here and he’s a horse that has shown some talent. This was definitely his toughest task to date but he showed that he likes it here and delivered a big performance,” Pletcher said. “I think he certainly ran well enough today to earn a spot into the Pegasus, which we’d love to do.”
Lopez settled Largent in mid-pack as his Pletcher-trained stablemate, Grade 1 winner Halladay, and Factor This battled dueled on the front end through fractions of 23.22 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 46.34 for the half, going six furlongs in 1:09.62. Lopez tipped outside after saving ground early and powered through the stretch to cruise past the tiring leaders.
“[Pletcher] said, ‘Paco, there’s a lot of speed, four or five horses. Just go behind them and relax. Figure out where you are and ride your race,’” Lopez said. “He broke well, he came back and he was very comfortable. We came around horses at the top of the stretch and went on.”
Doswell, a winner of his previous two races, came up the rail to edge Breaking the Rules for second. They were followed by graded winners Spooky Channel and Channel Cat, Tide of the Sea, Halladay, Factor This, multiple graded-stakes winner Somelikeithotbrown and French Group 3 winner Delaware.
“There was a little bit of cut [in the ground] and they were certainly going fast enough. The key was that [Largent] was able to settle and relax early on and that allowed him to deliver a big closing kick,” Pletcher said. “Unfortunately for Halladay there was so much pace in today’s race. We didn’t want to take away his weapon, but at the same time he was probably doing a little too much early on.”
Pletcher was the trainer of Channel Cat when he ran 10th of 12 in the most recent edition of the Pegasus Turf, won in an upset by Zulu Alpha.
“With Largent, I think he certainly earned his way in and with Halladay, we’ll assess how he comes out of it,” Pletcher said. “We’ll get them home and evaluate both of them but we’ll just kind of play it by ear with Halladay.”
Niko’s Dream Springs 13-1 Upset in $75,000 My Charmer
Sackatoga Stable’s Niko’s Dream, placed in three previous stakes over the past two years, became a stakes winner for the first time with a 13-1 upset of the $75,000 My Charmer Saturday at Gulfstream Park.
Jockey Junior Alvarado, riding for trainer Barclay Tagg, settled 4-year-old Central Banker filly Niko’s Dream alone in fifth as Piedi Bianchi ran a quarter-mile in 23.41 seconds and a half in 46.79 pressed by 2019 Tropical Park Oaks winner Our Bay B Ruth with 3-2 favorite Lady Lawyer and 35-1 long shot Great Sister Diane also in the top group.
Niko’s Dream found herself surrounded by Grade 3-placed Art of Almost to the inside and Tuned on her right midway on the far turn when she kicked into high gear. Steered to the far outside by Alvarado, Niko’s Dream collared Art of Almost at the top of the stretch and edged clear with plenty left to hold off a late bid from Tuned. The winning time was 1:41.82 for 1 1/16 miles over the good turf.
“I had a great trip. The whole way around, I was happy where I was,” Alvarado said. “I made my move when I wanted to and had to make sure she was in the clear on the outside. I’ve been riding her for a while, so I knew she likes to make a nice move on the outside. It worked out perfect today.”
Tuned beat Art of Almost for second, followed by Piedi Bianchi, Our Bay B Ruth, Lady Lawyer and Great Sister Diane.
Gulfstream Park Press Release
Gulfstream Park Photos: Largent, Ryan Thompson, Niko’s Dream, Lauren King, Coglianese Photos