Sibelius Becomes First Back-To-Back Winner of G3 Mr. Prospector

December 23, 2023

Sibelius defends his Mr. Prospector title (Coglianese)

David Joseph/Gulfstream Park

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla.— Jun Park and Deliah Nash’s millionaire Sibelius, who used a victory in last year’s race as a springboard to Group 1 glory, returned to Gulfstream Park for the first time since and defended his title with a popular and decisive four-length triumph in Saturday’s $125,000 Mr. Prospector (G3).

The 69th running of the seven-furlong Mr. Prospector for 3-year-olds and up was among four $125,000 stakes on an 11-race program, along with the six-furlong Sugar Swirl (G3) for fillies and mares 3 and up, Tropical Park Derby for 3-year-olds and Tropical Park Oaks for 3-year-old fillies, both scheduled for 1 1/16 miles on the grass.

Ridden by Junior Alvarado, Sibelius ($5.80) crossed the wire in 1:23.16 over a fast main track to become the first horse to win the Mr. Prospector in back-to-back years and just the second two-time winner, joining X Y Jet (2015, 2017).

In addition, Jerry O’Dwyer became just the third trainer since 1978 to take successive runnings of the Mr. Prospector, following Steve Margolis (2003, 2004) and David Fawkes (Jan. 2011, Dec. 2011).

“It’s nice. I think it’s the first time I’ve had a defending title champion in any race,” O’Dwyer said. “It was just super for him to come back and put in a huge effort like he did last year. He was very visually impressive again here today.”

Based year-round at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach County, Sibelius hadn’t raced at his home track since last year’s Mr. Prospector. He began this year with a stakes-record victory in the Pelican at Tampa Bay Downs and capped his win streak with an upset in the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) in March. He was no better than fourth in three subsequent starts, running fifth in the Oct. 6 Phoenix (G2) in his prior start.

“Junior had great faith in him,” O’Dwyer said. “He breezed him his final breeze last week and he said to me, ‘Jerry, I believe this horse is as good as he was last year.’ That was good enough for me.”

Sibelius broke sharply from outermost Post 9 and quickly found himself in a three-way duel for the lead with Hurricane J on the rail and Grade 2 winner Long Range Toddy between them. The first quarter mile went in 22.44 seconds when Hurricane J dropped back and left the front-running to the top two, with Sibelius taking over the lead after a half in 45.00.

“Junior just let him jump forward there and settled him. He was three deep, which I wasn’t in love with early on when you see the fractions they’re putting up,” O’Dwyer said. “When they put up a half in 45 going seven furlongs you’re like, ‘How much does he have left?’ But, he had plenty.”

Favored at 9-5, Sibelius began to gain separation from the field leaving the far turn and opened up once straightened for home, powering through six furlongs in 1:10.30 and finishing strongly. Gilmore came with a late run to get up for second, with Dreaming of Kona edging Long Range Toddy for third. Great Navigator was fifth, followed by Hurricane J, Howbeit, Winfromwithin and Scaramouche.

“If you can get him to relax when he’s inside or between horses, you can get him to shut off a little bit more. But he was outside and he gets aggressive when he’s in the clear on the outside. I just tried to manage him and not get in his way and when we turned for home he was there for me,” Alvarado said. “I didn’t want to jinx myself, but I was hoping he was going to come out with a good effort today and I’m just glad he did and showed up today.”

The 5-year-old Sibelius now has nine wins and nearly $1.75 million in purse earnings from 23 starts. O’Dwyer hinted he plans to follow a similar path next year with the gelded son of Not This Time, starting in the Pelican.

“That’s what we did last year, and I think we’ll try to do it again this year,” he said. “It’s seven weeks from Dubai to the Pelican [in 2024] where this year it was six weeks, so we’ll see. I’ll take a look at the book. It was a nice prep for him last year and I think we’ll more than likely do the same. It’ll have to be something special for us to be persuaded to do something different.”

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