Gulfstream Park

Wildcat Red ‘never quits,’ wins in heart-pounding photo finish

 
 
Finish Line: Wildcat Red defeats General a Rod to win the Grade II Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth.
Finish Line: Wildcat Red defeats General a Rod to win the Grade II Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth.
Lauren King / Bob Coglianese Photos, Inc

jwalfish@miamiherald.com

When it mattered most, the bob went Wildcat Red’s way.

After losing in a photo finish to General a Rod in the Gulfstream Park Derby in January, Wildcat Red got his head across the line first Saturday to win the Grade II Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth.

“We proved that we were right, that the horse could get the distance,” trainer Jose Garoffolo said. “[Wildcat Red] never quits and he likes that — to feel the horse next to him. I was very confident at the wire.”

The race went almost as scripted as General a Rod and Wildcat Red rocketed out of the gate to a sizable lead on the rest of the 12-horse field. Wildcat Red was in front of his competitor for most of the race, but his lead was never more than a head. The pair turned the race into a match race at the half mile pole as the group stalking them started to slip back.

The closest threat was Top Billing, who attempted a last-ditch drive at the two leaders, but was ultimately never able to make them worry.

“We just couldn’t catch them,” Top Billing’s trainer Shug McGaughey said. “He made a good run [and] I thought at the quarter pole we probably had them, but we just couldn’t get to them.”

The stretch run provided some anxious moments for the public as Wildcat Red and General a Rod matched each other’s bursts of acceleration. With neither colt able to gain an advantage, the race was decided by the photo and which horse happened to bob his head at the right time.

“At the top of the stretch, I knew I was going to win the race,” Wildcat Red’s jockey Luis Saez said. “When we came into the stretch, he fight, and he never let the other horse pass him.”

Wildcat Red collects 50 points in the Path to the Kentucky Derby series, almost guaranteeing him a spot in the first leg of the Triple Crown. Garoffolo said he wants to get one more race in before heading to Churchill Downs, likely the Florida Derby on March 29 at Gulfstream.

ALSO ON THE CARD

The Grade III Canadian Turf was also a neck-and-neck battle at the end with Reload edging Mr. Online to claim victory. Mr. Online set the pace out of the gate and held the lead until the top of the stretch when Reload came in with a late kick to challenge for the lead and the 5-year-old eventually pulled away to win by a neck.

Onlyforyou took home the Grade II Davona Dale despite acting up in the gate while the horses were loading. The 3-year-old filly led wire-to-wire, defeating her nearest foe by more than two lengths at the line. She had to face a little challenge from a late-charging House Rules, but Onlyforyou found a second wind to thwart the attempt.

Normandy Invasion returned to racing for the first time since last year’s Kentucky Derby and set a new Gulfstream record for a mile on the dirt. He won the allowance optional claiming race by more than seven lengths in a time of 1 minute, 33.13 seconds, besting the previous record by almost six-tenths of a second.

Gulfstream gave away Javier Castellano bobbleheads Saturday to patrons and the jockey delivered six victories, one shy of the track record set by Jerry Bailey.

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