Sunday, September 10, 2023
HALLANDALE BEACH - After Welcome Back barely prevailed in the $100,000 Desert Vixen for fillies, Bentornato proved much the best in the $100,000 Dr. Fager, giving trainer Jose D’Angelo a sweep of Saturday’s Florida Sire Stakes at Gulfstream Park.
In the first leg of the series for 2-year-olds sired by accredited Florida stallions, Soldi Stable’s Welcome Back eked out victory by a nose following a troubled trip, while Leon King Stable Corp.’s Bentornato never gave D’Angelo an anxious moment while scoring by 7 ½ lengths.
“I’m very happy,” D’Angelo said. “Last year, it was my goal to pick up and train horses for the Florida Sire Stakes. We worked hard at the sales. Thank God, we won both races.” Bentornato, it should be noted, is Italian for WelcomeBack. Bentornato, who was purchased for $170,000 at the OBS March sale of 2-year-olds in training, remained undefeated in three starts while following up a 4 ¼-length triumph in the six-furlong Proud Man at Gulfstream on Aug. 12.
“I was very confident in him today. In his last stake he wasn’t really ready because he had a fever before the race and missed a couple of very important workouts,” D’Angelo said. “For this race, I just worked him two times, easy for him, without company. Last race I had to push him to get ready.”
The son of Valiant Minister, the 2-5 favorite in a field of nine, broke alertly from his outside post position and advanced along the backstretch to hook up with Dickens approaching the far turn without pressure from jockey Emisael Jaramillo. Asked to pick up the pace on the far turn, Bentornato quickly opened up a clear lead on the turn into the homestretch and drew off with authority. Bentornato ran six furlongs in 1:11. 44 off half-mile fractions of :22.33 and :45.51 seconds.
Dickens, who was coming off a third-place finish in the Gr. III Sanford at Saratoga, held gamely to finish second, 1 ½ lengths ahead of Jive.
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Bentornato will be pointed toward the next two legs of the Florida Sire Stakes, the $200,000 Affirmed at seven furlongs on Oct. 21 and the $300,000 In Reality at 1 1/16 miles on Dec. 2. “I think he will go longer, because of the way he trains,” D’Angelo said.
Welcome Back, who inherited the role of favorite when 7-5 morning-line favorite R Harper Rose was scratched Saturday morning due to a fever, was coming off an impressive debut victory that came against winners on Tapeta in a July 29 optional claiming allowance.
The strapping, long-striding daughter of Adios Charlie, got away from the gate well to chase pacesetter Field of Greens along the backstretch with Epona’s Hope to her outside. Jockey Edwin Gonzalez was forced to check Welcome Back on the far turn when Epona’s Hope made an outside move to the lead, allowing Mist to get the jump on her with an outside move of her own. Gonzalez made a four-wide move on the turn into the homestretch as Mist set her sights on Epona’s Hope. It took Welcome Back time to get untracked and employ her huge stride, but she was able to prevail over Mist by a nose at the wire.
“My filly was a little green, between horses, she’d never run between horses. So today she was between horses and she’s so big, so I have to check a little when the 8 [Epona’s Hope] comes down. She almost clipped heels,” Gonzalez said. “When I take her out, she grabbed her spot, and she came running.”
Welcome Back ($3.60) ran six furlongs in 1:14.28 after fractions of :23.46 and :46.68 seconds. Mist finished second under Emisael Jaramillo, a half-length ahead of Epona’s Hope and jockey Edgar Perez.
The Soldi Stable homebred sported an equipment change that may well have meant the difference between victory and defeat.
“We put on her today a new bit. She looked much better today because when Edwin wants to move her, she responds very well,” D’Angelo said. “I’m very happy with the race.”
Welcome Back will be pointed toward the $200,000 Susan’s Girl, the seven-furlong second leg of the Florida Sire Stakes series on Oct.21. The $300,000 My Dear Girl, the 1 1/16-mile series final, is scheduled for Dec. 2.
“I think the hard race for her is going to be this one because she’s perfect to go long,” D’Angelo said. “I was afraid this race was going to be too short for her, so I’m happy she won the race."