Lea downs Will Take Charge in Donn
Report: USA, Sunday
Gulfstream Park: Donn Hcap (Grade 1) 1m1f, dirt, 4yo+
LAST year's champion three-year-old Will Take Charge was unable to catch former grass performer Lea (Bill Mott/Joel Rosario), who put up a track-record performance to take the Donn.
Moved to Bill Mott's barn from Al Stall in November to race at Gulfstream over the winter, the five-year-old won the Grade 3 Hal's Hope last month on the dirt and followed up with an impressive display in Sunday's $500,000 contest.
Sent off at 11-2, Lea settled into second just off longshot Uncaptured before taking the lead after a half-mile. Travers Stakes winner Will Take Charge, the odds-on favourite, was boxed in on the rail and had to be switched outside rounding the far turn, which allowed Lea to get a crucial break.
Will Take Charge chased hard down the stretch but while he significantly reduced the deficit, he was unable to get closer than the winning margin of a length and a half.
Lea, who carries the colours of Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider, is a son of First Samurai. He stopped the clock in 1m46.86s, beating the previous track mark of 1m47.49s set in the same race four years ago.
"I knew turning for home the kind of horse he is," Rosario said. "He just never quit running, so I was very happy turning for home. I never worried about Will Take Charge coming from behind. It was all the horse. He did it so easy. The fact that he broke the track record doesn't surprise me."
Mott famously transformed the great Cigar into a superstar after moving him from the grass. "It's always a different challenge when you move to the dirt," said the trainer. "I felt he was capable, but the competition was stiff and we were in against a champion.
"I saw when (Will Take Charge) broke free and I knew he'd be running at us," Mott added. "We were good enough to scoot away from him. It's a long year and the big races are at the end of the year, and there's a lot of good racing in between. Right now I'd love to point him for the Whitney at Saratoga."
Will Take Charge's trainer D. Wayne Lukas was gracious in defeat. "We got blocked for a bit and couldn't get out, so we couldn't move as quickly as we wanted to," he said. "That's just horse racing.
"We also didn't have a race over the track, which turned out to be a disadvantage. They had to set a new track record to beat us, so that's all you need to know. Kudos to the winner."
Also on Sunday
Gulfstream Park: Hurricane Bertie Stakes (Grade 3) 6½f, dirt, 4yo+
Dual champion female sprinter Groupie Doll (Buff Bradley/Rajiv Maragh), sold for $3.1 million for broodmare duties at Keeneland in November, brought the curtain down on her racing career with a dazzling display.
The six-year-old, who completed back-to-back successes in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint at Santa Anita in November, broke slowly and was stone last two furlongs out before charging past her rivals in the stretch in a totally dominant performance.
The 2-5 chance crushed her opposition by seven lengths in a time of 1m14.68s. She will visit Tapit later this month.
Gulfstream Park: Gulfstream Park Turf Hcap (Grade 1) 1m1f, turf, 4yo+
Lochte (Marcus Vitali/Orlando Bocachica) pulled off a major upset with a 39-1 success, scoring by nearly three lengths after being sent through a gap on the rail.