By Jim Freer
Sunday, Sept. 13 – On Saturday at Gulfstream Park, a drop in class proved to be what stakes veteran East Hall needed to return to the winner’s circle,
To get there, East Hall (above photo) and rider Tyler Gaffalione had to wait for the stewards’ to not accept a claim of interference by Jonathan Gonzales, the rider of second place finisher Lynx, regarding bumping among several horses coming around the far turn.
East Hall, a 4-year-old gelding, was in sixth and last place after a half mile. He took the lead coming out of the far turn and went on to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Lynx in the $75,000 Sensitive Prince Stakes.
Stakes action will continue today at Gulfstream with the $75,000 Three Chopt Road at seven furlongs on dirt for 3-year-olds (details below).
East Hall won the 1 1/16 mile dirt stakes in 1:4323–a fast time on the track that was sloppy and sealed on a day with several heavy thunderstorms
Last year East Hall won three stakes races, including two prestigious Derbys, for trainer Bill Kaplan and owners Jack Hendricks and Roger Justice.
But he was winless in seven starts in 2015 before Saturday’s stakes, All of those races were stakes and six were for higher purses than the Sensitive Prince.
East Hall was the second betting choice, at a surprisingly high 9-2. Lynx was 13-1. The $2 exacta paid $119.80.
Souper Lucky, the 4-5 favorite, finished fifth. Souper Lucky had finished third in three stakes at northern tracks this year. Bettors apparently felt he was in better form than East Hall.
But in the winner’s circle Kaplan said he felt that East Hall “had a class edge” over his rivals on Saturday.
“He’s won (over) $800,000,” Kaplan said. “He’s been running against some tougher company or on grass. Those were all races where he couldn’t show who he was. He just ran by them today. I’m very happy to see him in the winner’s circle.”
Kaplan said he had no definite plan for the gelding’s next start.
“We’ll play it by ear,” Kaplan said. “We could end up in Kentucky.”
There will be several two-turn stakes for older horses next month at Keeneland in Lexington and in November at Churchill Downs in Louisville.
As a Florida-bred, East Hall also will have numerous upcoming stakes opportunities at Gulfstream and at Gulfstream Park West (October and November).
Last year, East Hall won the Millions Preview at Gulfstream Park West (Calder), the Indiana Derby(Grade 2) and the Ohio Derby.
Gulfstream will have 11 races today with first post of 1:15 p.m.
The Three Chopt Road is the ninth race with scheduled post of 5:41 p.m.
The formidable team of trainer Stan Gold and owner Jacks or Better Farm will send out two of the favorites in the eight-horse field, They are Sing Praises, winner of three stakes races at Gulfstream last year, and Hear That Tune.
Fear the Cowboy, Unbridled Hero and Aces for John loom as win threats if the Gold-Jacks or Better colts falter in the Three Chopt Road.
Photo from Gulfstream Park, by Lauren King