Photo: Jack Coady/Coady Photography
Coming into last night's $125,000 Iowa Sprint at Prairie Meadows, all the buzz was about the locally owned Delaunay. Fair enough, the six-year-old former claimer had rattled off six straight stakes, with each being more impressive than the last. Tenuous is the saddle that sits upon a national division leader, though, and with a very talented, and lightly raced 4-year-old colt named Gentlemen’s Bet waiting in the Iowa weeds, Delaunay would see his streak of sprinting dominance go not so quietly into the night.
The heavily favored Delaunay and Gentlemen’s Bet, the second choice at 9-5, may have struck the lead together as the field came spinning out of the far turn, but it was the unheralded contender who would have all the answers down the stretch, pulling clear late to win by a decisive 1¾ lengths.
It was the first stakes victory for Gentlemen’s Bet, but make no mistake, last night’s result was anything but a fluke. Now 5-for-6 lifetime, the Harry Rosenblum owned runner has been a sprint star in the making for some time. His only previous defeat came when he finished a good third to Justin Philip in the Grade 3 Count Fleet back in April. What the son of Half Ours may have lacked for seasoning that day, he has quickly caught up to the rest, and now stands as one of the most interesting new shooters in an always interesting male sprint division. Gentlemen’s Bet signaled his readiness for last night’s major test with a sparkling romp in an optional claimer at Churchill Downs last month in which he completed the six furlong distance in a seldom seen 1:07 and change.
To fairness to the gelding that many had rated as the #1 sprinter in the land, Delaunay did break outward under Rosie Napravnik, and was a few lengths behind the field only a few strides out of the gate. With the contentious early pace, though, I am not sure how much of a negative that was. The 3-10 made a strong move on the backstretch, and from there was lapped onto the one horse he had to fear. As the pair pulled on even terms with the pace setting Credit Report, through a strong half in :44.52, the battle for sprinting supremacy in the Midwest was on.
Gentlemen’s Bet, who was near the pace throughout, was between the overmatched early leader and Delaunay, who was now breathing down his neck to the immediate outside. The heavy favorite actually put his nose in front for a stride or two, but Gentlemen’s Bet was resolute. Perhaps aided by Delaunay’s awkward start, or the six pounds he was in receipt of, the Ron Moquett trained colt proved too strong as he hit the wire in a solid final time of 1:09.51 for the six furlongs.
Excuses or no, Delaunay ran into a really talented sprinter last night who is just now coming into his own. For his happy trainer, who also won the Saylorville Stakes a few races earlier with Livi Makenzie, the victory came as no surprise.
“This was no surprise at all. I’ve always been optimistic with him. He’s a cool, classy, horse. [Delaunay] is a bad man, but we’re not ducking anyone,” said Moquett. “The Breeders' Cup is the goal, but there are still plenty of obstacles to get there. Everything is an option to him now.”
In a case of what one man spills, another man gathers, local rider David Mello picked up the victorious mount on Gentlemen’s Bet when Robby Albarado failed to make it out to the suburban Des Moines oval due to a travel snafu. Clearly, Mello made the most of his good fortune.