HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Whisper Hill Farm’s regal homebred Graceful Princess, debuting for trainer Todd Pletcher in her first start in more than seven months, made a triumphant return to competition in Friday’s featured ninth race at Gulfstream Park.
With Luis Saez aboard, the 4-year-old Tapit filly sat off a moderate pace of 23.23 and 46.69 seconds set by 3-2 favorite Slam Dunk, took over the top spot midway on the turn and galloped through the stretch under a hand ride to win the 1 1/16-mile optional claiming allowance by 6 ½ lengths in 1:44.57 over a fast main track.
Graceful Princess is by perennial leading sire and Grade 1 winner Tapit out of the Saint Liam mare Havre de Grace – both Horses of the Year. Previously trained by Ralph Nicks, she had not won since taking her unveiling in September 2018 at Saratoga, and hadn’t raced since finishing fifth against older horses in a 6 ½-furlong allowance last September at Gulfstream.
“She came in in really good shape and she was fairly far along in her training. Each time we breezed her she kind of stepped up a little bit and got ready pretty quickly,” Pletcher said. “I thought in particular her last couple breezes were very impressive. She’s a beautiful filly, impeccably bred. She’s got a lot of quality.”
Friday’s race also marked the second two-turn race for Graceful Princess. She was cut back to sprinting after running seventh in a 1 1/16-mile allowance, also against her elders, last summer at Churchill Downs.
“She was traveling really well down the backside [today] and she’s certainly bred to run all day. It seemed like Luis kind of turned her loose at the half-mile pole and she spurted away and won pretty comfortably,” Pletcher said. “Certainly a filly with this type of pedigree, we’d love to go into a stake. We’ll talk to everyone and see how she bounces out of it and see what kind of options are out there. That’s the tricky part at the moment.”
Saez and Pletcher also teamed up in Race 8 with Treadway Racing Stable’s homebred Eve of War, who made a successful transition to the turf with a gutsy front-running neck decision over favored Secret Stash in an entry-level optional claiming allowance for 3-year-old fillies. The winning time was 1:47 for 1 1/8 miles over a firm course.
Eve of War won her career debut by 7 ½ lengths in her career bow Feb. 2 over Gulfstream’s main track, returning to be fourth in an optional claimer Feb. 28, both sprinting. Following an April 16 breeze over the Palm Beach Downs turf, Pletcher opted to bring her back on the grass.
“She’s a filly that trained well on the dirt. She debuted impressively on the dirt [but] didn’t run quite as well the second time, so the natural temptation was to test her out on the turf,” Pletcher said. “We breezed her and she breezed really strongly, so I was pleased with that.”
Note: Jockey Luis Saez scored three successive wins aboard Combination ($5) in Race 7, Eve of War ($7.40) in Race 8 and Graceful Princess ($5.80) in Race 9 to pass Tyler Gaffalione for the spring-summer meet riding lead, 25-23. Eve of War and Graceful Princess are both trained by Todd Pletcher.
Gulfstream Park Press Release
Photo: Graceful Princess Gulfstream Park