Photo finishes were a recurring theme on Saturday at Gulfstream Park. Case in point? Three of the four graded turf stakes for older horses were decided by margins of less than a length.
The first and most important event of the afternoon was the 1 3/8-mile Mac Diarmida S. (G2), which saw Phantom Currency spring a gate-to-wire upset under jockey Paco Lopez. Allowed to waltz along through modest splits of :23.60, :49.08, and 1:14.62, the Brian Lynch trainee responded readily when called upon and turned back pace-tracking favorite Tide of the Sea to prevail by three-quarters of a length.
A five-year-old gelded son of Goldencents, Phantom Currency reached the finish line in 2:13.84. Moon Over Miami, Temple, Sir Sahib, Admission Office, Basha, and Aquaphobia trailed the field.
Up next was the 1 1/16-mile Canadian Turf S. (G3), in which Olympic Runner seemed destined for victory after launching a strong outside rally from mid-pack. But the ground-saving Venezuelan Hug found racing room along the rail just in time to surge home and edge Olympic Runner by a neck in 1:40.42.
Ridden to victory by Junior Alvarado, Venezuelan Hug has now won three straight stakes for trainer Danny Gargan. The improving four-year-old looks poised for further success after counting Gear Jockey, Winters Back, Eons, Dynadrive, Fancy Liquor, Bizzee Channel, and Monarchs Glen among his beaten rivals on Saturday.
If Venezuelan Hug is on the rise, then Got Stormy is on the rebound. A two-time Grade 1-winning miler, Got Stormy went winless over her signature distance in 2020, counting a couple of Grade 3 turf sprints as her lone successes for the season. But the Mark Casse-trained mare was sharp in the one-mile Honey Fox S. (G3) on Saturday at Gulfstream, tracking the pace under Tyler Gaffalione before kicking on at just the right moment to win by a nose in 1:35.52.
The stretch-running Zofelle charged hard down the lane to finish second, a neck in front of fellow closer Feel Glorious. Pacesetter Jakarta finished another neck behind in fourth place, while Art of Almost, Ricetta, Secret Time, and Bienville Street completed the compact field.
The graded turf action for older horses concluded with the 1 3/16-mile The Very One (G3), the only event to produce a decisive victory. The front-running four-year-old Antoinette was favored after wrapping up 2020 with a win in the Saratoga Oaks and a runner-up effort in the Belmont Oaks (G1), and the Godolphin homebred delivered on expectations with an impressive performance.
Allowed to set uncontested fractions of :23.98, :49.11, and 1:13.24 under Jose Ortiz, Antoinette was full of run down the stretch, sprinting the final three-sixteenths in :17.03 to cross the finish line in 1:53.70. The daughter of Hard Spun pulled 2 1/4 lengths clear of Belle Laura, followed by Sister Hanan, Tuned, War Like Goddess, Kalifornia Queen, Lovely Luvy, Bacchanalia, and Heavenly Curlin.
Although Antoinette’s biggest victories have come on grass, she’s also Grade 1 placed on dirt, giving the Bill Mott trainee plenty of options for a productive 2021 campaign.