Friday’s 10TH race at Gulfstream Park promised to be an informative allowance for aspirants to the Kentucky Derby (G1) trail, but its form value may be compromised by the rough trip sustained by one of the principals. While Shagaf didn’t have a straw in his path en route to victory, Rally Cry was badly hampered entering the far turn, and did well to get up for third. Both Triple Crown nominees went off at 4-5, with Shagaf marginally favored.

Shagaf, a Shadwell homebred trained by Chad Brown, is now two-for-two. A six-length debut winner around a one-turn mile at Aqueduct November 22, the Bernardini colt kept to the same type of configuration in this one-mile allowance. Drawn on the outside in post 7, Shagaf covered extra ground prompting the pace of :23.62 and :46.82 and easily struck the front on the far turn. So easily was he traveling that jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. had the luxury of taking a couple of over-the-shoulder peeks as he pulled clear after six furlongs in 1:10.67.

The Todd Pletcher-trained Rally Cry, on the other hand, was enduring a tough trip from the start. The son of champion freshman sire Uncle Mo was “brushed back a bit” at the break, recovered in quick order, and advanced to argue the pace on the inside. But the opening suddenly shut, and jockey Javier Castellano had to check him out of the dangerously tight spot. Castellano treated Rally Cry tenderly as they rounded the far turn, ensuring that he was hitting the ground well and mentally in the game. Apparently none the worse for wear, Rally Cry then angled to the outside for the stretch drive. Although staying on his left lead, he did offer a mild rally for third.

Splitting the two fancies in second was 36-1 longshot Southside Warrior. Also a Triple Crown nominee, Southside Warrior was coming off a distant fourth to Cherry Wine in 1 1/16-mile allowance here on January 9. This result can be taken as a compliment to Cherry Wine, who rates a good prospect for trainer Dale Romans.

In addition to the formline favoring Cherry Wine, and Rally Cry’s trouble, another cause for pause is the time. Shagaf took :26.54 to negotiate his final quarter and finished the mile in 1:37.21. He appeared to be ridden out, and his advantage dwindled from four lengths to two at the wire.

Shagaf was produced by the stakes-winning Unbridled’s Song mare Muhaawara, herself a half-sister to Grade 2-winning millionaire and Breeders’ Cup Marathon (G3) victor Eldaafer. Shagaf’s second dam is Habibti, queen of the 2001 Hollywood Starlet (G1) and Del Mar Debutante (G1) who placed in the 2002 Santa Anita Oaks (G1), Las Virgenes (G1) and Kentucky Oaks (G1). Shagaf’s pedigree sports inbreeding to influential sire Fappiano.

Needless to say, a beautifully bred colt from these connections is very much worth watching, and Shagaf likely has more to offer. But he’ll have to step up again to threaten the top-tier prospects.

 

Photo courtesy Coglianese/Gulfstream Park via Twitter.