Patience paid off for the connections ofBlofeld March 5, as the Todd Pletcher trainee picked up the $500,000Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. II) atGulfstream Park. Watch Video
The winner of three straight races as a 2-year-old, including the grade II Futurity Stakes and Nashua Stakes, the Quality Road colt was full of promise until physical issues sent him to the sidelines at the end of 2014. He raced only twice in 2015, and was off from July of that year until he returned Jan. 27 this season with a fourth in a Gulfstream allowance race.
Perhaps that was why bettors sent him off at 9-1 in the one-mile Gulfstream Park Handicap—but Pletcher knew better.
"We were expecting a big performance from him," the trainer said. "I thought he got a race off the layoff, so we were looking for a big effort from him. It's nice to see him get back to the form we knew he was capable of."
Pletcher, who saddled four starters in the seven-horse field, sawStanford finish second, edged by a head as his fellow runner crept up the rail.
"Tough beat," the trainer said. "He took the worst of it from the one post and kind of had to work hard the whole way. It looked like he had just gotten there and Blofeld caught him on the money."
Another Pletcher-trained runner, 17-1 pacesetter Anchor Down, was disqualified from third to fourth for interference with 6-5 favorite Valid, who stumbled badly after appearing to clip heels with Anchor Down when closing in the center of the stretch.
"It wasn't a fair fight," trainer Marcus Vitali said of the incident. "We were making a great move. It looked like we were going to win the race until (Anchor Down) took us out. I just looked at the horse for a minute, and he looked all right."
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez tracked the pace in fourth on Blofeld behind opening fractions of :23.21 and :45.69, and was still fourth headed into the stretch. He took advantage of an opening along the rail, and worked his way through just in time.
"It was a perfect trip," Velazquez said. "He broke well enough. Normally you have to break and put him into the race. He got into the race nicely. Then I just had to bide my time and figure out which way to go. When Javier (Castellano, on Stanford) took out at the eighth pole, it was my time to go back inside and he ended up getting there."
Final time was 1:35.03 on the fast main track.
Blofeld, who races for Glencrest Farm and JSM Equine, returned $21.40, $7.20, and $3.60. Stanford brought $4.20 and $2.60. Valid paid $2.20, with Anchor Down, Itsaknockout, Hesinfront, and Grande Shores completing the order of finish.