Csaba won his fourth consecutive stakes race and added to his stature as a rising national star Sunday when he won the $100,000 Hal’s Hope Stakes (Grade 3) in a four-horse photo finish at Gulfstream Park.
Csaba, a 4-year-old colt, and his regular jockey Luis Saez rallied along the rail and beat Pool Play by a neck in the one-mile dirt stakes that had a field laden with prominent national horses
Pants on Fire finished third, another neck behind, with Soldat a head back in fourth place.
“We always felt we had something special in him,” said Phil Gleaves, who trains Csaba at his base at Calder Casino & Race Course.
“He started growing and maturing last summer when he was up in Saratoga, [N.Y.]” Gleaves said.
Csaba finished second in the Hall of Fame Stakes (Grade 2) at Saratoga, and began his winning streak last fall.
Csaba’s victory in the Hal’s Hope came four weeks after he won the Harlan’s Holiday against another strong field at Gulfstream and was his fourth win in four starts since Sept. 22, The first two were at Calder.
Csaba has won eight of his 17 starts in a career that began in October of 2011.
“He’s showing that he’s a throwback,” Gleaves said. “Woody Stephens always said, ‘when they’re going good keep running them.’”
During the 1970s, Gleaves was an assistant to Stephens, a Hall of Fame trainer.
Csaba was the 9-5 favorite in the eight-horse field.
Associate led through a fast half mile in 44.75 seconds. Csaba was sixth..
The field was tightly packed in the stretch before Saez found a clear path near the rail.
Csaba took the lead in the final 20 yards and held off a late charge by Pool Play to win in 1:35.69 — the second-fastest time in the past seven runnings of the Hal’s Hope.
“I give all the credit to Luis,” Gleaves said.
Saez leads Gulfstream jockeys with 33 wins, followed by Javier Castellano with 32.
Gleaves said that if Csaba is still looking fresh and fit he will run him Feb. 9 in the Donn Handicap (Grade 1) at 1 1/8 miles on the dirt at Gulfstream.
After that, Gleaves plans to run Csaba in major stakes at tracks in northern states.
Csaba is a son of Kitten’s Joy and owned by Bruce Hollander of Boca Raton and Cary Shapoff of Fairfield, Conn. They named him after their friend Markus Csaba, a Hungarian painter.
When Gulfstream resumes racing Wednesday it will have a carryover of $242,525 for its Pick 6 on the day’s last six races..
Gulfstream pays out the entire Pick 6 pool including the carryover only on days when there is just one winning ticket.
When there are multiple winners, such as on Sunday with a $3,250 payoff, they divide 60 percent of the day’s new bets. The other 40 percent goes into the carryover.
Gulfstream will be in the national spotlight next Saturday with two big events.
In the afternoon, it will have its annual Florida Sunshine Millions stakes races. The day’s six stakes have purses of $150,000 or more and restricted to Florida breds
At night, it will be the site of the awards program for the 2012 Eclipse Awards for the country’s top horses, jockeys, trainers and owners.