Rising Turf Star Provides Saez with 5th Winner of Day
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Repole Stable’s Never Surprised scored a popular gate-to-wire 6 ¼-length victory Sunday at Gulfstream Park, providing Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher with back-to-back victories in the $100,000 Tropical Park Derby.
Last year, Pletcher sent out Colonel Liam for a 3 ½-length victory in last year’s Tropical Park Derby prior to the son of Liam’s Map’s triumph in the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1) at Gulfstream four weeks later.
The Tropical Park Derby, a 1 1/16-mile turf stakes for 3-year-olds, co-headlined Sunday’s day-after-Christmas program with the Tropical Park Oaks, a 1 1/16-mile turf event for 3-year-old fillies.
While touring the Gulfstream turf course in a solid 1:40.39, Never Surprised also provided jockey Luis Saez with his fifth victory on the 11-race program.
Bet down to 1-2 favoritism on the strength of his 9 ½-length triumph in the Nov. 26 Gio Ponti Stakes at Aqueduct, Never Surprised never gave Saez an anxious moment, breaking alertly to gain the lead into the first turn. After setting half-mile fractions of 23.22 and 46.66 seconds, the son of Constitution opened up on the turn into the homestretch and drew away for a comfortable victory.
“He’s a pretty nice horse. I rode him one time before and he was a little bit green, but today he was good. Todd has done an amazing job,” Saez said. “He broke from the gate really fast. I was excited about the way he ran today. I had a lot of horse. I didn’t have to overdo it. It was an easy race for him.”
Among his four other winning rides, Saez rode Pletcher-trained first-time starter American Icon for an 8 ½-length front-running victory in Sunday’s Race 8, a seven-furlong maiden special weight race for 2-year-olds.
“It’s an amazing day. My family was here – that’s my happiness,” Saez said. “It was a great job by my agent (Kiaran McLaughlin) and everybody who is supporting me, giving me those type of horses to ride.”
In seven career starts, Never Surprised has four victories, as well as three second-place finishes in graded-stakes – Kitten’s Joy (G3) at Gulfstream, Saranac (G3) at Saratoga, and Hill Prince (G2) at Belmont.
Yes This Time finished second in the Tropical Park Derby, a nose ahead of Safe Conduct.
Gulfstream Park Press Release
Photo: Never Surprised (Ryan Thompson Photo)