Yes I Am Free Delivers Sweet Success in G3 GP Turf Sprint

February 12, 2022

Cazares Saddles First Graded-Stakes Winner

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – John and Paula Szalay were nearly overcome by emotion when Yes I Am Free pulled off an upset in Saturday’s $100,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint (G3), making it well worth the trip from their Peninsula, Ohio sweet corn farm.   

“I never in my life could dream that I would be here like this, never,” said John Szalay in the winner’s circle following the couple’s first graded-stakes success. “Years ago, my dad and I used to race horses at Thistledown – $1500-2000 claimers. Paula and I said, ‘We’ve got to get a good horse,’ and we’ve got one.”

The five-furlong Turf Sprint co-headlined Saturday’s 12-race program with the $100,000 Ladies Turf Sprint, a five-furlong turf dash for fillies and mares.

Yes I Am Free ($18) also delivered a first graded-stakes success to trainer Laura Cazares, who conditions five horses for the sweet corn farmers’ Golden Kernel Racing Stable at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach County.

“We got some names of trainers and we went to interview. Laura was the first one we went to. I walked in and looked at all of her horses, and I said to my wife, ‘Paula, we don’t need to go any further. She takes wonderful care of these horses.’” John Szalay said. “We said, ‘Laura, claim us a horse and she got Yes I Am Free.”

Claimed for $62,500 out of a victory in a five-furlong optional claiming allowance on turf at Gulfstream April 16, Yes I Am Free had been competing against the top turf sprinters on the grounds, finishing third in the Turf Sprint for Florida-breds and winning an overnight handicap in six starts for his new connections.

Saturday, the 6-year-old gelding broke alertly to race second behind pacesetting Warrior’s Pride, who set fractions of 21.35 and 43.96 seconds for a half mile. The son of Uncaptured took over at the top of the stretch and drew clear to win by 3 ¼ lengths under Emisael Jaramillo in 56.07. Richy closed with a rush to finish second, a head in front of Belgrano.

Gear Jockey, the 3-10 favorite who was making his first start since finishing sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) at Del Mar, raced evenly before settling for fifth.

Cazares said her career achievement was particularly special because she could share it with her owners.

“They’re very hard-working people and they deserve the best. They’ve been through a lot,” Cazares said. “They’ve worked their butts off and to do well for them means a lot to me because that’s what I’m here for, to make them proud, to make them happy and give them the thrill of a lifetime.”

Gulfstream Park Press Release

Photo: Yes I Am Free (Lauren King Photo)

Jonathan Stettin is a New York Legend. He's been a Horseplayer, earning his living at the track, since he was 19 years old. @jonathanstettin

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