By Ryan Martin and Brian W. Spencer
Stepping up against a horse is no easy task in general, let alone when coming off a layoff, but First Premio did just that when upsetting 3-5 favorite Great Wide Open (Ire.) in the Colonel E.R. Bradley Handicap.
Owned by Team Valor and ridden to victory by Brian Hernandez, Jr., the son of Pure Prize laid third in the early stages while Great Wide Open displayed his front running ways and set opening fractions of 22.52, 47.05 and 1:11.71. The heavy favorite was under a drive at the top of the stretch but was unable to hold off the eventual winner when confronted. First Premio went on by to win by 3¼ lengths for trainer Mark Casse in a time of 1:42.17. Sir Dudley Digges ($5.80 and $2.40) was second and Great Wide Open ($2.10) ran third.
“Mark, (assistant trainer) David (Carroll), and the whole team did great with the horse,” Hernandez said. “This was the first time I got on him, and he was there for me the whole way. All I had to do was give him a clean trip and he did the rest.”
The Colonel E.R Bradley Handicap was Frist Premio’s first win since a fifth-place effort in the Grade II King Edward Stakes at Woodbine in June last year.
“He got really sick after his last race,” Casse said. “We never found out what happened to him, but he didn’t run well and then was sick for a couple of weeks. We played around with him for a bit and finally just sent him home and gave him some time. At this time last year, I thought this was a serious horse, and what he did today was pretty impressive.”
Saturday’s triumph was First Premio’s fifth career sin as well as his first stakes victory, from which he earned a total of $75,000. His lifetime earnings now sit at $230,768.
Pioneer Spirit and Teodoro (Ire.) completed the finish.
Bred in Kentucky by Ronald McPeek, First Premio is out of the Stravinsky broodmare Perils of Pauline.
After landing underneath shares in three stakes races since arriving in North America, Qatar Racing and Hunter Valley Farm’s Dubara (GB) earned her day in the spotlight when showing a sharp turn of foot to capture the $74,250 Marie G. Krantz Memorial Saturday at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots as part of Road to the Derby Kickoff Day presented by Hotel Monteleone.
Ridden by Jamie Spencer – internationally known and riding in the United States for about a month – for trainer Brendan Walsh, the 5-year-old daughter of Dubawi (IRE) settled at the back of the eight-horse field through early splits of 23.87 and 49.24 set by America’s Tale. That early leader offered little resistance when headed outside the quarter pole after three-quarters in 1:13.85, and it was soon Dubara in command in the lane en route to a measured score by three-quarters of a length over Best of Times Racing’s Steve Margolis-trained Promise of Spring who rallied well for second at 56-1 under Gabriel Saez. It was a half-length further back in third to Stonestreet Stables’ Hanelei Moon for trainer Mark Casse and jockey Tyler Gaffalione.
Dubara (GB) stopped the clock in 1:43.47 for the about 1 1/16-miles turf trip over ground rated “good.”
“Brendan’s got the key to her,” Spencer said. “She was difficult in the stalls in Europe. Today she was very relaxed — the pace was on and it worked out well.”
“Jamie gave her a great ride, and the race panned out perfectly for her,” Walsh added. “She hit the front at the right time. She was always going to win [a stake], it was just a matter of it setting up right.”
The winner returned $5.80, $3.60 and $2.80 while earning $45,000 to boost her career bankroll to $101,574 in her third win from 17 lifetime starts.
Promise of Spring paid $28.60 and $9.20, with Hanelei Moon returning $4.00.
Hachi (CHI), Lion in Wait, America’s Tale, Kabella and Miss Southern Miss completed the order of finish. Auspicious Babe and Coachwhip were scratched.