Fourth in last year’s Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1), Atone stepped up to score his first stakes win in Saturday’s $981,400 renewal at Gulfstream Park. The Three Diamonds Farm runner collared Ivar late, capping a banner day for trainer Mike Maker and jockey Irad Ortiz Jr.
Ortiz, who just received his fourth Eclipse Award during Thursday night’s gala, was racking up his fourth win on the card. All came on turf, including the La Prevoyante (G3) aboard Personal Best and the W.L. McKnight (G3) aboard Maker’s Red Knight.
Maker swept three stakes on Pegasus Day. Red Knight topped a Maker trifecta in the McKnight, while Endorsed rolled in the Fred W. Hooper (G3) on the main track. Endorsed and Atone have something else in common aside from their trainer – both were bred and initially campaigned by Godolphin.
The Pegasus Turf betting reflected the lack of an obvious standout. Atone was dispatched as the 3.80-1 third choice, just off 7-2 favorite City Man and the 3.70-1 Ivar. City Man never factored from post 12, but Atone and Ivar ran up to market expectations to fight out the finish.
Atone has been known to go forward in certain circumstances, as in his Nov. 10 allowance coup at Aqueduct last out. But there was other speed on tap Saturday, and Ortiz was happy to perch behind the pace factors in fifth, flanked by Ivar.
Up front, Southern California shipper One More Bid hustled to grab the lead. King Cause, Maker’s other entrant who drew in from the also-eligible list, chased through fractions of :23.26, :47.30, and 1:11.36. Stalking in the next flight were the rail-drawn Wit and Lady Speightspeare, but they could not lift as the field swung for home.
Ivar was the first to play his hand from off the pace, rolling up to confront One More Bid and King Cause in midstretch. Atone was briefly on hold for room, but soon switched out to follow Ivar’s trail. Just as Ivar was striking the front, Atone was on the attack. The son of leading sire Into Mischief outfinished Ivar by three-quarters of a length in a brisk 1:46.19 for 1 1/8 miles.
“It was perfect, every step of the way,” Ortiz said. “I was so happy. I was following a live horse, Wit, and then by the three-eighths pole the horse that I had to beat (Ivar) was outside of me, so I had to take two or three strides to let him move before I made my move. I waited but at the same time I tipped my way out so when I hit the clear my horse was there. All the credit goes to the horse.”
Speaking Scout rallied to take third in a blanket finish from Lady Speightspeare, One More Bid, King Cause, and Master Piece, who met with trouble at the start. Master Piece had a half-length to spare over Wit, the biggest margin among the clump of horses crossing the wire together.
Bunched up with Wit were Good Governance; Hurricane Dream, the recent French import who failed to land a blow following a lackadaisical break; and Decorated Invader. City Man, out of sync when bumped early and wide throughout, checked in last of the dozen. Who’s the Star was a vet scratch, allowing King Cause into the starting gate. The second also-eligible, Steady On, ran on the undercard, finishing fourth to Wolfie’s Dynaghost in a Tapeta handicap.
Atone, purchased for $130,000 at Fasig-Tipton Kentucky’s July Selected Horses of Racing Age Sale in 2021, developed into a graded stakes competitor for his new connections. Second in that fall’s Ft. Lauderdale (G2) as his prep for the 2022 Pegasus Turf, the bay gelding was a close fourth in the Apr. 15 Maker’s Mark Mile (G1), third in the Dinner Party (G2) on Preakness Day, and runner-up in both the July 15 Forbidden Apple (G3) and Sept. 10 Mint Million (G3). His resume now reads 22-6-4-4, $621,146.
“He was a hard-luck horse last year,” Maker said. “He’s always been right there, and today was his day.”
The Kentucky-bred six-year-old was produced by the stakes-winning and Grade 2-placed Captivating Lass, a daughter of A.P. Indy. His second dam, Folk, captured two UAE fillies’ classics before placing third in the 2007 Coaching Club American Oaks (G1). His third dam is Group 3-placed stakes scorer Polish Style, and his fourth dam is millionaire Family Style, the champion two-year-old filly of 1986.