Photo Credit: Derbe Glass
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Phat Man earned his first graded-stakes victory Saturday at Gulfstream Park, benefiting from an ideal trip to capture the $150,000 Fred W. Hooper (G3) at Gulfstream Park.
The 34th running of the mile stakes for 4-year-olds and up was the first of six graded stakes on Saturday’s 12-race program that was co-headlined by the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) presented by Runhappy and the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1) presented by Runhappy.
Marianne Stribling Force Five Racing’s Phat Man, who came up short while finishing second behind Pegasus World Cup contender War Story in the Harlan’s Holiday (G3) last time out, earned graded-stakes credentials to his resume in the Hooper as well as providing the first graded-stakes success of trainer Kent Sweezey, an assistant to Jimmy Jerkens before going out on his own in 2017.
Phat Man ($15.40) settled off a rapid early pace set by Zenden, who showed the way while producing pressured fractions of 22.43 and 44.68 seconds for the first half-mile. The 6-year-old son of Munnings saved ground before Ortiz found a seam between horses on the turn into the homestretch to enter contention at the top of the stretch. Phat Man responded to Ortiz’s urging through the lane to prevail over a game Zenden by a length. Ridden by John Velazquez, Zenden finished two lengths clear of Rare Form and jockey Flavien Prat.
Free Enterprise, the 9-5 favorite trained by Chad Brown, was never a serious factor while finishing ninth.
Phat Man, who ran a mile in 1:35.95, was purchased at sale for $65,000 last summer and won one of four subsequent starts, as well as placing in the Harlan’s Holiday (G3), before Saturday’s breakthrough win.
Winning Trainer Kent Sweezey (Phat Man): “I thought the one-turn mile would suit him well and the owners thought it should set up good for him. They went really, really fast. If I could win a race for someone, it would be these guys (owners).”
“He’s a big, heavy horse and we realized he could stand up to some training and racing. He gained weight out of his last race and we worked him a couple times in between, which I would not have done on a normal horse coming back in a month. I’d usually just give an easy work or two. But we drilled him a bit. He got tired last time and I wanted to make sure he was fit. If he’s going to be able to run on this day, he’s got to work for it, so I wanted to make sure I got to the bottom of him. That’s a Jimmy Jerkens move – when you have a dirt horse, you really have to breeze and crank on them. If he was going to be go run with those horses, he’d better be darn sure fit.”
“The whole reason we bought him was to take cool shots and to win a race on Pegasus Day is a pretty cool shot.”