Al Shaqab Racing’s Sandiva put in a winning late rally to defend her title in Saturday’s $150,000 Marshua’s River Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park.
The Todd Pletcher-trained chestnut was making her six-year-old bow in the 1 1/16-mile turf affair and bided her time in midpack under jockey Javier Castellano. Meanwhile, stablemate Isabella Sings pulled away to lead by as much as 6 1/2 lengths while setting splits of :23.17, :46.37, 1:09.80 and 1:33.41.
Isabella Sings still had command of the race rounding the turn, but Castellano was getting busy on Sandiva. Sea Coast also began gaining ground from second, and those two set their sights on Isabella Sings.
Sandiva collared her barnmate a furlong out to stop the clock in 1:39.56 over the firm turf. Sea Coast was forced to angle inside as Isabella Sings drifted out late but got her nose in front of that rival to take second a half-length behind Sandiva.
Dickinson followed another length back in fourth, while Inside Out, Seeking Treasure and Elusive Million completed the order under the wire.
Sandiva lived up to her 7-5 favoritism in this spot and returned $4.80 for the win. In addition to the 2016 Marshua’s River she also boasts wins in the 2015 Suwanee River Stakes (G3) and 2014 Tropical Park Oaks as well as a pair of Group 3 contests in England and France. The chestnut daughter of Footstepsinthesand has placed in six other graded/group contests and improved her record to read 23-8-4-3, $751,280 with this score.
Pletcher said after the race that Sandiva will be bred this year to her owner’s Mshawish, who captured both the 2015 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1) and 2016 Donn Handicap (G1) at Gulfstream Park. Pletcher indicated he wasn’t sure if Sandiva would have another start before heading to the breeding shed or not.
Bred in Ireland by Denis McDonnell, Sandiva is out of the winning Mark of Esteem mare Miss Corinne and comes from a black-type rich female line that includes Epsom Derby (Eng-G1)-scoring sire Sir Percy and Grade 1 heroine Braiswick.
MARSHUA’S RIVER STAKES QUOTES
Todd Pletcher, trainer Sandiva, winner
“She just needed a little freshening. She had a solid campaign and she seemed like she was just a touch off form and we knew that she loves Gulfstream. We kind of intentionally freshened her up with these races in mind.
“She is versatile enough that 7 1/2 is probably a tick short than ideal, but she showed enough quality that she almost got there, but I think, obviously, that race helped her out today.
“She is booked (to be bred) to Mshawish this year, so we’ll get with team Al Shaqab to see if she will have one more run (in the Suwannee River [G3] on February 11) or go on to be bred.”
Javier Castellano, jockey Sandiva, winner
“She’s a very straightforward classy horse who improves every year. She never gets lazy. She does her own thing and enjoys herself. Todd (Pletcher) has done a phenomenal job bringing her back every single year.
“I liked the way she did it today. I had a perfect trip. It set up good because there was a lot of speed in the race. I was more patient today because I had her too close a little bit (before a second-place finish in the December 17 South Beach). I think that’s the reason she got beat. Today, patience paid off.”