Mystic Lake, Mish, Pure Class Score Dirt Wins in Florida Cup Stakes

March 25, 2024

Mish captures the NYRABETS Sprint (Ben Baugh)

Joseph Charges and Fawkes Sophomore Brilliant in Main Track Victories

By Ben Baugh

OLDSMAR, Fla.— Sunday’s Florida Cup races over the main track at Tampa Bay Downs featured a series of victories by comfortable margins, under the confident handling of several of the nation’s leading jockeys and classic conditioning by their trainers. The purses for the races were $110,000 guaranteed. 

Mystic Lake, a 3-year-old daughter by Mo Town out of the mare Salty Soul, would have made the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community in Prior Lake, Minn. proud, as the dark bay filly scored a three-and-a-half length victory in the 7-furlong Stonehedge Farm South Sophomore Fillies Stakes. 

The filly is trained by Saffie Joseph, Jr., campaigned by C2 Racing Stable, LLC and Stefania Farms, LLC, and was ridden to victory by Edgard Zayas. Mystic Lake won the Gasparilla Stakes this past winter by three-and-a-quarter lengths and is no stranger to Tampa Bay Downs. Zayas has piloted Mystic Lake in her last three starts, including a fifth-place finish in the Hercomesthebride Stakes (Gr. 3) at Gulfstream Park on March 2. 

“She ran well today, last time on the turf wasn’t a bad run, two turns on the grass was a little too far for her, but she was beaten by much better horses that day,” said Joseph, Jr., in a phone interview Sunday afternoon. “Numbers-wise (speed figures), they came back pretty good. I was glad to get her back in the winner’s circle today. It was a good spot for her. I thought she did it well.”

The filly found her stride under Zayas with a rhythm that was like Benny Benjamin’s drumming on the Marvelette’s Motown hit, Too Many Fish in the Sea, with the daughter of Salty Soul scoring her second stakes victory, setting the pace early and leaving the competition in her wake. Mystic Lake’s versatility provides her with plenty of options. 

“She loves this track, she loves the dirt, she likes the Tapeta, she likes the turf, she likes all surfaces,” said Zayas. “The Herecomesthebride was a tough race, and she didn’t run a bad race. Today she was the class of the race, she broke out on top, she relaxed, and she had plenty left at the end.”

However, C2 Racing, LLC and Joseph, Jr. were hardly done as the combination connected again in the 6-furlong NYRABETS Sprint with the venerable campaigner Mish making his 29th start, but after just missing in his previous contest the Pelican Stakes also at Tampa Bay Downs, leading rider Samy Camacho, in pursuit of his fifth riding title at the Oldsmar-oval, made it look easy on the son of Field Commission, opening up in upper stretch to win easily by a three and-a-quarter length margin. It was the gray gelding’s ninth-lifetime victory but first stakes score. 

“I was very confident from the gate,” said Camacho. “Our horse broke good but not too sharp. But the no. 6 (Zydeceaux) helped me because he cut everybody off inside of me, so when he did that…I just had my horse second and was waiting. I checked twice to see where the horses were and if anyone was coming. I started asking at the quarter pole and he took off. The horse is very special.”

A work in progress, polishing, refinement, and a flawless performance were part of JoAnn and Alex Lieblong’s Pure Class’ first stakes victory in the 7-furlong Ocala Breeders’ Sales Sophomore Stakes. David Fawkes conditioned the winner and Paco Lopez guided the 3-year-old son of The Big Beast to a one-and-one-quarter length victory. 

It was the third victory for the lightly raced colt to go along with three seconds in seven starts. Sunday’s win was his first start away from his home base of Gulfstream Park. 

“He’s just growing up,” said Fawkes. “He’s a young horse; the first couple of races, he’s just been learning the game and getting better and better. He’s still a little gangly. As he gets older, he’ll get better. “

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Ben Baugh

Ben Baugh has been writing about Thoroughbred racing for more than 25 years. A past winner of the Raleigh Burroughs Award, his work has appeared...

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