The Hal’s Hope: A Closer Review

By Jim Freer

One day after a narrow loss at Gulfstream Park, Valid was looking good in his stall and he likely will race again next month his trainer Marcus Vitali told us on Sunday.

On Saturday the multi-graded stakes winning Valid continued his stretch of strong Gulfstream races when he finished second by a neck to Mshawish in the $150,000 Hal’s Hope (Grade 3).

The winning time of 1:34.61 for the one-turn dirt mile was the second fastest for the Hal’s Hope (photo on home page)in its ten runnings at that distance. Chatain set the stakes record of 1:33.87 in 2007.

Mshawish, in just the second dirt race of his career, and Valid both earned an Equibase speed figure of 119. Mshawish’s career best is 120 and Valid’s career best is 125.

There is a prospect that those two horses will meet again at Gulfstream on Feb. 6 in the $500,000 Donn Handicap (Grade 1) at 1 1/8 miles on dirt.

Valid, ridden by Luis Saez, led most of the way in the Hal’s Hope until Mshawish, ridden by Javier Castellano, came on even terms about 200 yards from the finish.

They raced head-to-head and Mshawish, in the favorable outside position, gained a slight edge as they neared the finish line.

Trainer Marcus Vitali

Trainer Marcus Vitali

But Vitali noted that: “He (Valid) battled back. If there were another jump, I think he would have won.”

Vitali added that Valid “came out of the race good” and that “we’ll look for something after the next two or three weeks.”

Valid, a 6-year-old gelding is owned by Crossed Sabres Farm which is headed by Carolyn Vogel who lives in New Hampshire.

“The Donn is possible,” Vitali said in a phone interview from his barn at Palm Meadows in Boynton Beach.

On “Donn Day” Gulfstream also will have the $100,000 Fred W. Hooper (Grade 3) a one-mile dirt stakes that Valid won last year.

Valid (10) wins the Fred W. Hooper at Gulfstream on Feb. 7, 2015

Valid (10) wins the Fred W. Hooper at Gulfstream on Feb. 7, 2015

Following the Hal’s Hope trainer Todd Pletcher mentioned the Donn and the $350,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (Grade 1), also on Feb. 6, as possible upcoming starts for the 6-year-old Mshawish.

Last year, Mshawish won the Gulfstream Park Turf and the Fort Lauderdale (Grade 2) at 1 1/16 miles on turf at Gulfstream.

Mshawish’s first career dirt race was the Cigar Mile (Grade 1) last Nov. 28 at Aqueduct in Ozone Park, N.Y. He finished fourth.

Pletcher used the Hal’s Hope as a test for whether Mshawish could compete at a high level on dirt as well as on turf.

He passed with fast-flying colors.

Pletcher said: “It’s kind of why we wanted to run today–to find out if in fact he is a dirt horse and if the Donn is an option. If not, we’d just fall back on the turf. Now, we have both options.”

Mshawish has proven to be a quality horse on turf–in the United States and previously in Europe and Dubai.

But in the U.S., the money and prestige are bigger on dirt. Pletcher is considering that option at the start of a year when, at least yet, there are no apparent dirt superstars among 4-year-olds and up on the East Coast.

Last year, Mshawish finished third in the World Dubai Turf Cup (Grade 1) on the World Cup card at Meydan Race Course in the United Arab Emirate of Dubai.

Pletcher said he is considering a return to Dubai for another run in the Turf Cup or on dirt in the $10 million Dubai World Cup (Grade 1) on dirt. Those races are on March 26.

Todd Pletcher speaks with reporters following the Hal's Hope, Jan. 9, 2016 -- photo by Barry Unterbrink

Todd Pletcher speaks with reporters following the Hal’s Hope, Jan. 9, 2016
— photo by Barry Unterbrink

Al Shaqab Racing, based in Qatar, owns Mshawish. Qatar and Dubai are both located on the Arabian Peninsula.

Valid and Mshawish are sons of Medaglia d’Oro, the winner of the 2004 Donn Handicap and six other graded stakes races. A main difference is that Valid is a gelding, and that Mshawish still has the physical equipment that would enable him to be a stallion.

This year’s Donn also could draw Keen Ice, Upstart, Madefromlucky, Saraguaro and Matrooh, the fourth place finisher in the Hal’s Hope.

There were only five starters in the Hal‘s Hope, following the scratch of Midnight Cello.

Valid was the 9-5 favorite and Mshawish was 2-1.

The Hal’s Hope unfolded differently from how most everyone, including Vitali, expected it.

Mr. Jordan, in post two, was the only horse in the field with a history of early speed. If he took the lead it might have set the race up nicely for the tactical speed of Valid, in post four.

But Mr. Jordan broke slowly, never was in contention and finished last.

That left Valid taking the lead on the inside. Grande Shores, usually a late runner, surprisingly pressed the pace and was second to Valid at each of the first three calls.

Valid’s margins and fractions were a half length and 46.69 seconds after a half mile and one length and 1:09.95 after three quarters of a mile.

Mshawish was near the inside and in third place, two lengths behind Valid, after three quarters.

Mshawish moved outside coming around the turn and began his stretch duel with Valid.

“We had to do all the work,” Vitali said. “We still wound up just getting beat. It was the two best horses at the end.”

Pletcher echoed that respect.

“He’s (Valid) a tough horse to get by,” Pletcher said.
“I was a little concerned when he made the lead. You know when you go to fight with him he’s going to fight back. I think Javier knew that as well. That’s why he stayed out a little and not try to engage him, but still he dug in.”

Grande Shores finished third, by 3 ¼ lengths. It was another 2 ¾ lengths back to Matrooh and another nine lengths back to Mr. Jordan.
Gulfstream Park, Jan. 9, 2015–7th race

3 -MSHAWISH 6.40 3.40 2.60
4 -VALID 3.20 2.40
$2 EXACTA 3-4 PAID $20.00; $1 TRIFECTA 3-4-5 PAID
$33.40; 10 CENT SUPERFECTA 3-4-5-1 PAID $6.34

–Photos of the Hal’s Hope and 2015 Fred W. Hooper courtesy of Gulfstream Park.

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