Saturday’s turf stakes for newly turned 3-year-olds at Gulfstream Park served up tight finishes. After 8-5 favorite Lira extricated herself in the nick of time to remain unbeaten in the $100,000 Ginger Brew, Life Imitates Art benefited from a dream inside trip, and a three-pound weight pull, to outduel Isotherm in the $100,000 Dania Beach (G3).
Life Imitates Art, who was avenging a neck loss to Isotherm in a Saratoga maiden, was actually crossing the wire first for the first time. The Chad Brown pupil had finished second in all four career starts, including three near-misses. Promoted to a maiden win via disqualification at Belmont Park October 18, the More Than Ready colt was just denied in the November 28 Pulpit at Gulfstream Park West.
Perhaps because of that “nearly” profile, Life Imitates Art went off as the fourth choice at 7-2. Stablemate Ray’s the Bar was fancied at 5-2, having finished a close third to Isotherm in the September 26 Pilgrim (G3) and 11th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1). But the public sided with the wrong Brown runner here.
Isotherm, most recently 13th when choosing the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) on dirt, was sure to prosper back on turf. Saving ground on the rail, the son of Australian star Lonhro traveled strongly while stalking the pace of :24.47 and :49.40.
Life Imitates Art was held up further back, also on the inside, until Isotherm shifted off the rail. Thus invited, jockey Joel Rosario sent Life Imitates Art into the opening. He advanced down the backstretch, and cut the corner on the far turn.
Isotherm, on the other hand, found himself covering more ground on the final turn. Still moving conspicuously well at the six-furlong mark in 1:13.27, he powered to the fore in the lane.
But Life Imitates Art was enjoying another spot of good luck for a change. Getting a seam between the fading pace factors, he knifed through to challenge Isotherm. Although Life Imitates Art has a high head carriage, he nevertheless dug in determinedly here to prevail. His success in this eyeball-to-eyeball battle augurs well for the future. Perhaps he’s finally learning the game.
“He really put it together,” Brown said. “Joel fit the horse perfectly and gave him a great ground-saving trip. When he called on the horse, the horse really responded and I’m really proud of him. We’ve always thought he was one of our better horses.”
Isotherm emerged with plenty of credit in defeat as the 120-pound highweight. Aside from the tactical maneuver that backfired, he was also conceding a recency edge to his rival.
Urban Bourbon, a last-out maiden winner at this course and distance, closed for third. Ray’s the Bar never landed a blow in sixth. Mountain Music Man was the other who failed to perform up to his odds, reporting home eighth.
Life Imitates Art covered 7 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:30.42 and increased his bankroll to $150,750 from a record of 5-2-3-0.
Owned by Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence, the bay was kicking off a stakes double for connections, who later celebrated a win by Kentucky Derby (G1) prospect Flexibility in the Jerome (G3) up at Aqueduct. They nearly made it a trio, with Pricedtoperfection finishing a fine second in the Ginger Brew. Life Imitates Art is out of multiple Grade 2-placed Habiboo, an Unbridled’s Song half-sister to sprint star and young sire Street Boss.
In the Ginger Brew, Lira and jockey Javier Castellano found daylight in the nick of time. The Todd Pletcher filly raced in a pocket nearly all the way, tucked behind the vying leaders Recognition and Pancake through fractions of :24.40, :48.50 and 1:12.19. Turning for home, Lira was full of run with nowhere to go. But her saving grace came when the rallying Module swept down the outside and struck the front. For the first time, Lira had the door open to her outside, and she seized the opportunity to quicken in the final strides. The well-bred daughter of Giant’s Causeway got up by a half-length in a final time of 1:30.38 for 7 1/2 furlongs.
“I thought we were going to be off the board,” Pletcher said, “and then she nearly won by a length.”
Pricedtoperfection, who got off to a sluggish start and was parked out wide from post 10, also closed well to grab second. Although Lira had a sob story of her own here, Pricedtoperfection might turn the tables with a better trip, and a more favorable pace set-up.
Module, drawn in post 9, likewise took the overland route and may have just lost concentration once she struck the front. The Juddmonte homebred persisted on her wrong lead and appeared to be lugging in late. By Harlan’s Holiday and with Tates Creek as her second dam, she could continue to progress in the hands of Hall of Famer Bill Mott.
Now a perfect three-for-three, Lira has earned $125,215. The Mathis Stable colorbearer won her first two at Gulfstream Park West, breaking her maiden October 11 and punching through in the November 28 Wait a While over the same grassy mile. Lira had to maneuver in traffic before bursting up the inside in the Wait a While, so she’s gotten quite an education already.
Lira’s half-sister, Avenge, showed a similarly plucky attitude when landing the May 1 Ultrafleet at Santa Anita. They were produced by the Woodman mare Lerici, and their second dam is a full sister to multiple Group 1-winning highweight Mashaallah, Grade 1 victress Folk Art and sire Sportin’ Life.
Photos courtesy of Adam Coglianese Photography: Life Imitates Art by Lauren King, Lira by Leslie Martin.