Sunday, October 22, 2023
HALLANDALE BEACH - Leon King Stable Corp.’s Bentornato maintained his perfect record Saturday while powering to a 2 ¾-length victory in the $200,000 Affirmed, the second leg of the Florida Sire Stakes Series at Gulfstream Park.
The seven-furlong Affirmed co-headlined Saturday’s 11-race program with the $200,000 Susan’s Girl, a seven-furlong stakes for fillies, in the $2.2 million series for 2-year-olds won by heavy favorite R Harper Rose.
The Jose D’Angelo-trained Bentornato, who had previously rolled to a FSS first-leg victory in the $100,000 Dr. Fager on Sept. 9, is on course for a bid to sweep of the Florida Sire Stakes series in the $300,000 In Reality at 1 1/16 miles on Dec. 2 at Gulfstream.
Bentornato had to survive an objection and stewards’ inquiry concerning crowding during the backstretch run to claim his fourth career win without a loss. The son of Valiant Minister broke alertly to vie for the early lead before jockey Emisael Jaramillo successfully managed to rate the speedy colt just to the outside of early pacesetter Esperon.
With weakening inside pressure, Bentornato assumed a clear lead on the far turn and showed the way into the stretch after briefly being challenged by Sound of the Beast. Hurricane Nelson made a late bid to the outside and Mattingly cut the corner into the stretch to enter contention, but. Bentornato shook off the mild challenges and drew away to victory.
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“I am so happy. We were so high on him,” D’Angelo said. “We were prepping him, not for this race but for the next one because maybe it will be harder for him. He responded very well. He didn’t look too sharp and need to have the lead. Going two turns, maybe he will get slower fractions and he will be better.”
Bentornato collected his third straight stakes victory after running seven furlongs in 1:23.50, built on fractions of :22.59 and :45.50 seconds for the first half mile.
“He’s 4-for-4 but he’s still a little green,” said D’Angelo, whose undefeated colt dropped over to the rail in the stretch before changing leads late. “He always wants to go close to the rail, but we can improve that.”
Mattingly, a son of Bucchero and a stakes-winner on Tapeta, finished second in his dirt debut, a neck ahead of Hurricane Nelson.
D’Angelo swept the first leg of the Florida Sires Stakes series with Bentornato and Welcome Back, who captured the $100,000 Desert Vixen. Unfortunately, Welcome Back was scratched from the Susan’s Girl after sustaining a minor injury Friday night while kicking a stall wall. D’Angelo said undefeated Welcome Back will be ready to compete in the $300,000 My Dear Girl, the third leg of the Florida Sire Stakes series.