Power Squeeze Captures G2 Gulfstream Park Oaks

March 30, 2024

Power Squeeze springs the upset in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (Juliana Colombo/Past The Wire)

David Joseph/Gulfstream Park

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla.— Lea Farms’ Power Squeeze came with a steady run down the center of the racetrack to reel in favored Ways and Means approaching the wire and edge clear for a one-length victory in the $250,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) presented by FanDuel TV Saturday.

The 54th running of the 1 1/16-mile Oaks was the seventh of 10 stakes, five graded, worth $2.425 million purses on a blockbuster 14-race program anchored by the $1 million Curlin Florida Derby (G1) presented by Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms at Xalapa, one of the country’s premier Triple Crown preps.

It was the fourth consecutive victory, third straight in a stakes and first in graded company for Jorge Delgado-trained Power Squeeze ($24), who finished up in 1:44.19 over a fast main track as the 11-1 fifth choice in a field of nine.

“We always thought very highly of her. We never felt like she was [11-1]. We felt like she was 1-1,” Delgado said. “We felt like we had a really good chance. We believed in the filly, and she responded for us.”

Into Champagne, a stakes winner over Gulfstream’s main track in the Jan. 7 Glitter Woman that ran second to Gulfstream Park Oaks rival Fiona’s Magic in the March 2 Davona Dale (G2), broke alertly from Post 5 and found herself on the lead through a quarter-mile in 24.18 seconds, with Fiona’s Magic pressing in second and Gun Song between them in third. Centeno settled Power Squeeze in fourth from their rail post.

The half went in 47.86 with Into Champagne still in front, Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez and Gun Song second and 1-2 favorite Ways and Means in third after making a bold move on the outside under Irad Ortiz Jr. Centeno and Power Squeeze followed Ways and Means and raced by themselves around the far turn as Scalable moved into fifth.

“It looked like there was plenty of speed in the race so that would help us. We had to make sure we broke sharp so we could get position into the first turn,” Centeno said. “I had to use her a little bit today because I came out real quick and I didn’t want to get in trouble, so I had to get in there and get my position. But she showed heart and never let go of me.”

Ways and Means wrested a short lead from Into Champagne once straightened for home, the six furlongs going in 1:11.66, but Centeno and Power Squeeze were rolling on the far outside and surged in the final sixteenth of a mile to spring the upset. It was her second win in as many tries over Gulfstream’s main track following a five-length triumph in the one-mile Cash Run Jan. 1.

“This is a tricky track when it comes to two turns. You have the first wire and there’s not a long stretch,” Delgado said. “She did everything good. She showed the determination to get it.”

Power Squeeze after her victory (Juliana Colombo/Past The Wire)

Ways and Means, making her first start in 211 days since emerging from a runner-up finish in the Spinaway (G1) Sept. 3 at Saratoga with an ankle injury, was able to overcome some crowding on the clubhouse turn to finish a decisive second, 5 ¾ lengths over Into Champagne. Gun Song, an impressive optional claiming allowance winner Feb. 9 at Gulfstream, was a length back in fourth.

“[Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr.] said the first turn cost him. It got tight in there, he was bounced around a bit, and he got wide. And then when she saw daylight, she kind of pulled herself up to the front, a little premature move. He said he didn’t really want to do that,” Ways and Means’ trainer Chad Brown said. “She ran really well. I think without the layoff, she probably could have encountered some trouble like that and still had enough to go, but she had a lot to do today. And then when you add the trouble in the first turn and the wide trip and all, it maybe took just enough out of her to get caught by the wire.”

Completing the field were Scalable, Do Gooder, America’s Vow, Fiona’s Magic and Neom City.

“She ran her race,” Into Champagne’s rider, Julien Leparoux, said. “She broke sharp. I thought the first quarter was reasonable. She was relaxed and she made her run. She just got beat today.”

“I had a pretty good trip,” Velazquez said of Gun Song. “I didn’t break as good as I wanted to, but going into the first turn I was perfect. On the second turn, I had to hold my position where I was and then she kind of leveled off in the stretch a little bit.”

The Oaks was worth a total of 200 qualifying points to the top five finishers for the 1 1/8-mile Kentucky Oaks (G1) May 5 at Churchill Downs. Power Squeeze, who came into Saturday’s race off a 2 ¾-length triumph in the one-mile, 40-yard Suncoast Feb. 10 at Tampa Bay Downs, earned 100 points to seal her spot in the starting gate.

“We’ve been thinking about it since November. When she broke her maiden at Delaware, we knew we had a filly that can go very far,” Delgado said. “I believe the stretch at Churchill is going to be really good for her. Hopefully everything comes back in order and we’re going to plan a trip to go there.”

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