Gulfstream Park’s Saturday stakes bonanza included stepping stones to the Jan. 29 Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) and the new Pegasus Filly & Mare Turf (G3). Doswell advanced his Pegasus candidacy in the $200,000 Ft. Lauderdale (G2), while Sweet Melania emerged as a Filly & Mare contender in the $100,000 Suwannee River (G3).
Ft. Lauderdale (G2)
A troubled runner-up in last year’s Ft. Lauderdale, Doswell went straight to the front with Junior Alvarado, and the 9-2 chance never looked back en route to his first stakes victory.
Trained by Barclay Tagg, the Joseph Allen homebred capitalized on his rail post to dissuade other potential pace factors. The fractions posted live were apparently incorrect, since times were not recorded on the chart. Analyze It tracked in second before weakening out of contention, and the stalking English Bee ran evenly in third throughout.
The 17.90-1 Atone improved from midpack to loom on the far turn, but Doswell kicked away to prevail by 1 1/2 lengths. His final time for about 1 1/8 miles on firm turf was listed as 1:45.60, hand-timed.
“Junior rode him super,” Tagg said. “He doesn’t like being in a crowd, I don’t think, and he doesn’t like all that pressure around. He had the inside and we thought if he gets away good, just leave him there.”
Alvarado recapped his trip:
“It was nice and easy. Last year they kind of told me to try to see if he would stalk to make sure he would finish strong, and we kind of took away his main (weapon). Today they told me, ‘You’re in the one (post), just leave out of there rolling,’ and that’s what I did.
“He broke good, I put him on the engine a little bit and then tried to slow him down, and he rated kindly for me. When we turned for home, I asked him and he gave me a nice kick. I knew they were in trouble as soon as I started asking him because he picked it up very quickly, and I thought they’d have to be flying at the end to go by.”
Atone crossed the wire a half-length up on English Bee. Market leaders Space Traveller (3.10-1) and L’Imperator (3-1) wound up fourth and fifth, respectively, from off the pace. Next came the awkwardly-starting Sole Volante, Renaisance Frolic, Breaking the Rules, Order and Law, Media Blitz, Analyze It, and King Guillermo. Also-eligible Brown Storm, who didn’t draw in, was re-entered in Sunday’s 9TH race.
The six-year-old Doswell has compiled a mark of 12-3-5-3, $314,625. Initially trained by John Gosden in Great Britain, the dark bay missed by a head in his Newmarket premiere as a juvenile in the summer of 2017. But he wasn’t seen again until January 2019, when resurfacing stateside with Chad Brown. The Giant’s Causeway gelding again came close in a trio of maidens.
Doswell was sidelined for another lengthy spell until trying to rejuvenate his career under Tagg’s tutelage. Finally breaking his maiden in his first start for the barn in August 2020, Doswell promptly cleared his entry-level allowance condition before placing in the Ft. Lauderdale and Jan. 23 W.L. McKnight (G3). He was shelved for nine months, resuming in the fall with thirds in allowances at Belmont Park and Aqueduct, respectively.
“He’s hard to get fit because he’s had some little problems and stuff like that, and we had to give and take with him a lot,” Tagg said. “But, I felt kind of good about him today because he was fit. We were able to train him hard.
“(Assistant trainer) Robin (Smullen) has just done a hell of a job with him. She rides him every single day. She got him all straightened out and he’s very sensible now.”
The Kentucky-bred is a full brother to Grade 3-placed Entrechat. Their dam, Grade/Group 3-placed stakes scorer Ballet Pacifica, is also responsible for Grade 2-placed stakes winner Secretary at War. Ballet Pacifica is herself a Minardi half-sister to Grade 1 victress Ariege, both out of Irish highweight and multiple Grade 1 queen Kostroma. Further back, this is the family of Group 1 heroine Grise Mine and multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Nashoba’s Key.
Suwannee River (G3)
Robert and Lawana Low’s Sweet Melania collared front-running favorite Shifty She in the Suwannee River to end a losing skid. Winless since the 2020 Wonder Again (G3) at Belmont Park, the Todd Pletcher trainee benefited from a well-judged ride by John Velazquez.
As Shifty She sprinted to a three-length early lead, Sweet Melania was perched in second. No times were available on the chart, but Shifty She appeared to race exuberantly through the opening half-mile.
Sweet Melania advanced on the far turn, caught the longtime leader in the stretch, and covered about a mile in 1:34.19 (hand-timed). To her credit, Shifty She kept on doggedly on the inside and succumbed by only a half-length. The same margin away in third was the closing In a Hurry, followed by Keeper of Time, Summering, Kelsey’s Cross, Alms, Dawn’s Dancer, Princess Causeway, Classic Lady, Quiet Company, and La Babia.
Off as the 6.80-1 fifth choice, Sweet Melania returned $15.60 while improving her resume to 15-4-4-4, $571,210. The daughter of American Pharoah was among the leading turf fillies at two, romping in the 2019 Jessamine (G2), just missing in the P.G. Johnson S., and placing third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1). After her victorious sophomore bow in the Wonder Again, Sweet Melania was narrowly denied in the Lake George (G3), and lost form thereafter. The four-year-old has turned the corner this fall. Tiring to second in the Sept. 9 One Dreamer S. at Kentucky Downs, Sweet Melania came much closer when runner-up in an Oct. 15 Keeneland allowance, and continued her progress here.
“She was super sharp coming into it,” Pletcher said. “I loved the way she was training, and she got a beautiful ride from Johnny. It was a good set-up, and I thought she ran a good race. I felt like she had been rounding back into form and had some good performances and just didn’t quite get there. She did seem super sharp, and we were hoping for an improved performance.”
Velazquez explained how he’s learned Sweet Melania’s optimal running style:
“The first time I rode her (in the One Dreamer), she broke well and I was trying to get her back. She was kind of keen and the other horse next to me was pushing the whole way, and she never really got to relax. Last time (at Keeneland) she relaxed a little bit behind a couple horses in front, so I thought maybe she wants to do that and have a better finish. Although she just got beat last time out, she ran a really good race.
“Today I was just trying to do the same thing, if I could get behind somebody. It was perfect. When I let her go, she responded right away. Obviously the horse in front (Shifty She) is a very tough horse to beat, but I didn’t want to let it be too easy. I got to her at the three-eighths pole and I knew I probably had her but on the other hand I don’t want to let her go too easy and get caught by somebody else from behind.”
Bred by St. Elias Stables in Kentucky, Sweet Melania commanded $600,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. The chestnut was produced by the stakes-winning, Grade 3-placed Sweet N Discreet, who is a full sister to Grade 2 hero Discreet Dancer. The Discreet Cat mare is also a half to another Grade 2 victor, Travelin Man, from the further family of European champion Duke of Marmalade, 2013 Epsom Derby (G1) star Ruler of the World, and 2018 Met Mile (G1) winner Bee Jersey. This is another branch of the superb female line of A.P. Indy.