Spirit of St Louis Dominant in Danger’s Hour

April 20, 2024

Spirit of St Louis much the best in the Danger’s Hour (Susie Raisher)

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By Mary Eddy – NYRA Press Office

OZONE PARK, N.Y.— Turf stakes season in New York kicked off in exciting fashion when Spirit of St Louis rallied late to lead a Chad Brown-trained exacta over the late-running Equitize in Saturday’s Listed $150,000 Danger’s Hour, a one-mile inner turf test for older horses, at Aqueduct Racetrack.

Owned by Michael Dubb, Madaket Stables and Richard Schermerhorn, the 5-year-old New York-bred made his first start off a nearly six-month layoff and found the winner’s circle for the third consecutive time when landing his first open-company stakes score.

The talented Medaglia d’Oro dark bay made his first two career outings for owner Peter Brant before Dubb purchased him for $280,000 at the Keeneland Horses of Racing Age Sale one year ago. Since then, Spirit of St Louis has won 5-of-6 starts, led by state-bred stakes scores in the Mohawk and Ashley T. Cole last fall over the Big A green.

“I’m just fortunate to have bought the horse,” said Dubb. “I knew when he was at the sale last year that he had all kinds of ability. He, to me, seems a lot better than just a restricted, state-bred type of New York-bred, but I’ll leave it to Chad to tell me what is next.”

Brown added that Spirit of St Louis enjoyed the winter respite that followed his gritty half-length score in the 1 1/16-mile Mohawk on October 29.

“He’s a hell of a nice horse,” said Brown. “We gave him a little break and he’s really used his time off well to refresh himself. I couldn’t ask for anything more from his first race back. It was an excellent race for him.”

Piloted by Manny Franco, Spirit of St Louis emerged from post 3 in the eight-horse field and rated near the rear of the field as the sharp-starting Heaven Street took charge from the Brown-trained Masen, who angled around his foe sharply in the first turn with the opening quarter-mile elapsed in 23.25 seconds over the good footing.

Heaven Street maintained a healthy lead over Masen down the backstretch with Bring Me a Check and Tidal Forces following in an even line and Spirit of St Louis racing comfortably in sixth along the inside through the half-mile in 46.35. Masen inched up to challenge Heaven Street in the turn and Spirit of St Louis was angled off the rail by Franco, maneuvering around the rail-skimming Tidal Forces and the two-wide Bring Me a Check to take dead aim at the lead at the top of the lane.

While Pioneering Spirit made mild progress in the center of the course through three-quarters in 1:09.55, Spirit of St Louis showed a powerful turn of foot and swept past Masen and a resolute Heaven Street. He assumed the lead in mid-stretch ahead of fellow closer Equitize, who rallied on bravely between foes in the two-path, but there was no reeling in Spirit of St Louis, who crossed the wire 1 3/4 lengths in front in a final time of 1:33.57.

Equitize held place by 1 1/4 lengths over the multiple stakes-winning New York-bred Dakota Gold, who came on late to nab show honors from Pioneering Spirit by a neck. Bring Me a Check, Heaven Street, Tidal Forces and Masen completed the order of finish. Main-track only entrant Ouster was scratched.

It was the fourth win on the card for both Franco and Brown, who teamed up in Race 7 to win a one-mile optional claiming tilt with Grade 1 Champagne-winner Blazing Sevens off a nine-month layoff.

Franco, who has been aboard Spirit of St Louis for each of his stakes wins, said he and assistant Dan Stupp agreed there would be enough speed to execute a deep-closing trip.

“I was so happy with my position because I told Dan that on paper, it is a lot of speed, so I don’t want to rush the horse to get position. If I know they are close, I want to be where he was comfortable and that is what I did,” said Franco. “He broke good, they ran away from me, and I was pleased with my position. By the three-eighths pole, I just moved a little bit on him and he let me know that I had horse under me, so I just was waiting for the right moment, the right time to move, and he got it done.”

Bred by Chester and Mary Broman, Spirit of St Louis is out of the graded stakes-winning Lemon Drop Kid mare Khancord Kid and is a full-brother to 2017 Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint winner Bar of Gold. He has finished first or second in each of his eight outings and banked $82,500 for his Danger’s Hour victory, boosting his total purse earnings to $453,150. He returned $6.20 on a $2 win ticket.

Brown said he will consider the state-bred 1 1/16-mile $125,000 Kingston on June 9 at Saratoga Race Course next for Spirit of St Louis. As for Equitize, who entered from a track record-setting victory in a one-mile Tampa Bay Downs allowance on February 3, the 1 3/16-mile Grade 1, $1 million Resorts World Casino Manhattan on June 8 could be next.

“When Equitize was younger I thought this was going to be a nice mile and a quarter horse and he threw me for a little bit of a curve ball three-turning-four where he had a nice comeback race at Tampa at a mile,” said Brown. “The way the race set up, I started to view him more as a miler, but I might be going back to my original thought – especially the way the horse galloped out – that he’s not out of the question to show up all the way out to the Manhattan.”

Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano said Equitize, who was scratched from the Grade 1 Maker’s Mark Mile last Friday in favor of this race, likely would prefer firmer ground and more distance.

“In the beginning [he found the turf a little soft], he felt like he was on the wrong lead and trying to figure it out and then on the backside he grabbed the bit and was traveling better,” said Castellano. “When I asked him, he was really good and galloped out beautiful. I think a mile and a sixteenth would be a different result.”

Live racing resumes Sunday at the Big A with an eight-race card, featuring the Listed $150,000 Plenty of Grace in Race 7. First post is 1:20 p.m. Eastern.

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