The $1.1 million Claiming Crown, a nine-race program of starter stakes for horses that raced previously for a tag, took center stage on Saturday’s opening-day program at Gulfstream Park. Wet conditions forced all but one of the Claiming Crown races to be contested on a sloppy and sealed main track.
Michael Dubb, Bethlehem Stables and Gary Aisquith’s Royal Posse continued to return dividends for his connections, romping to an easy win as the 8-5 favorite in the $200,000 Jewel. Claimed for $20,000 in late May, the New York-bred Posse gelding has posted three wins and two seconds since being haltered. The 4-year-old registered his first stakes tally in the restricted Evan Shipman at Saratoga two starts back and was exiting a runner-up in the October 24 Empire Classic at Belmont Park for state-breds.
Javier Castellano, who won four Claiming Crown races Saturday, was up on the Rudy Rodriguez-trained Royal Posse, who stepped 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.77 and increased his earnings to nearly $400,000 from a 25-6-6-0 mark.
The $123,750 Emerald was moved from turf and went to Premier Stables Unlimited’s Key to Power, who edged away to a half-length decision after rallying to the lead in deep stretch. Corey Lanerie was up for trainer Brendan Walsh.
The 6-year-old son of A.P. Indy finished 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.61 and he’s now earned $402,708 from a 36-12-4-3 record.
Crossed Sabres Farm’s Quiet Kitten easily proved best in the $122,5000 Tiara, the lone race held over the soggy turf course. Haltered for a $25,000 tag at Gulfstream last March, the 3-year-old filly tracked the pace before taking over on the far turn and went on to post a two-length decision, completing 1 1/16 miles in 1:48.51.
Matthew Rispoli was up for trainer Marcus Vitali and Quiet Kitten’s career line now reads 17-7-1-4, $194,680.
A two-time stakes winner and runner-up in the True North (G2) this year for owner/trainer David Jacobson, Stallwalkin’ Dude gamely proved best in the $106,700 Rapid Transit, edging last-out Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash winner Trouble Kid by a neck. Castellano was up on the winner, a 5-year-old gelded son of City Place.
Eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) two back, Stallwalkin Dude gathered a measure of revenge after finishing fourth most recently in the De Francis Memorial Dash. He traveled seven panels in 1:22.34 and the Florida-bred’s career line now reads 36-13-4-5, $689,852.
Loooch Racing Stables’ Runs With Bulls closed from just off the pace to prevail by three-quarters of a length in the $105,600 Iron Horse, registering his third straight win in the process. Last seen competing at Thistledown, the 6-year-old gelding was making his first start for trainer Peter Walder and was guided by Castellano.
The son of Flashy Bull turned 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.63 and Runs With Bulls improved his record to 36-9-5-3, $200,619.
Thistledown shipper Moonshine Promise also proved best in her first start for Walder, parlaying a front-running trip into a five-length decision in the $107,800 Glass Shipper. Owned by Loooch Racing Stables and ridden by Castellano, the 6-year-old covered a mile in 1:37.67.
With the $60,500 payday, the Will He Shine mare has earned $225,104 from a 52-14-12-7 scorecard.
M-Z Racing Partnership’s Doddsprivatelabel rallied to capture the $100,000 Express in the final jumps, scoring by a neck in the 6-furlong test. A 4-year-old son of Suave, the Marcos Zulueta-trained gelding invaded from Laurel Park and Jorge Vargas Jr. had the mount.
The Texas-bred winner moved his record to 28-8-9-5, $245,429 after stopping the teletimer in 1:10.77.
Acclaimed Racing Stables’ Silver Sashay led all the way in the off-the-turf, $105,600 Distaff Dash, posting a half-length decision beneath Edgard Zayas. Unraced since July, the speedy daughter of Eurosilver stretched her win streak to four, taking her last three appearances on Gulfstream’s turf, and the 5-year-old mare was making her first start for trainer Alfred McIntosh.
Silver Sashay splashed five furlongs in :587.90 and increased her bankroll to $303,265 from a 30-11-4-3 line.
Marco Thoroughbred Corp.’s Successful Native circled four wide into the stretch and got up late in the off-the-turf, $106,700 Canterbury. Trained by Aubrey Maragh and piloted by Juan Leyva, the Successful Appeal colt completed five furlongs in :57.90.
Winner of the Turf Sprint three starts previously, the 4-year-old now improved his overall record to 9-4-1-1, $154,450.
In addition to the Claiming Crown, the opening-day of Gulfstream’s Championship Meet featured a 6-furlong maiden special weight for 2-year-olds and Zulu stamped himself as a colt to watch with a smart two-length tally, leading wire to wire as the 3-5 favorite in his career debut. Trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by John Velazquez, the bay son of Bernardini stopped the teletimer in 1:10.08.
Zulu is owned by Stonestreet Stables and the Coolmore connections of Susan Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith. He was purchased for $900,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Florida March 2-year-old sake earlier this year and counts stakes winners Third Chance and Banner Bill as half-siblings.
Royal Posse photo courtesy of Adam Coglianese Photography