Disqualified from a second-place finish in his most recent start in the Continental Mile at Monmouth Park, Team Valor International's homebred PLUCK (More Than Ready) stayed in the clear and out of trouble to score a one-length victory as the 5-2 choice in the $243,176 Summer Stakes at Woodbine, one of two juvenile turf events held at the Toronto course on Saturday. Guided by Garrett Gomez, Pluck made a sweeping four-wide move at the top of the stretch, maintained his position out in the middle of the track while advancing, and held on to win the one-mile event in 1:37 3/5 over the good turf.
The early pace of the Summer was set by 5-2 second choice Forum (Roman Ruler), who led through splits of :24 1/5, :48 and 1:12. However, the Dogwood Stable colorbearer came under increasing pressure as the field entered the long homestretch and ultimately faded along the rail. Pluck, who raced in sixth through the opening six furlongs, made such a powerful move at the top of the lane that he quickly consumed those rivals that had maintained a closer presence to the longtime leader. The best of the rest turned out to be 10-1 chance Rockin Heat (Rock Hard Ten), who had 2 1/4 lengths on 3-1 third choice Stormy Rush (Stormy Atlantic) at the finish.
"He always was traveling really well," Gomez said of the winner. "Once I put him on the outside he just started hitting gears."
Pluck rewarded his many backers with mutuels of $7, $4 and $2.90. Rockin Heat paid $9.30 and $5.70 and completed the exacta worth $54.50. Stormy Rush returned $3.40 while capping the $204.60 trifecta. Breaking Ball (Smart Strike), the 25-1 longest shot, ended the 4-1-5-6 superfecta worth $2,060.80. Ronin Dax (Tapit), Forum and Silverleo (Badge of Silver) completed the order of finish. Midway Train (Silver Train) was withdrawn.
A distant third in his debut in the mud at Belmont Park June 10, Pluck returned the following month to take a six-furlong turf maiden at the same venue by 1 1/4 lengths. In the August 14 Continental Mile, also on grass, Pluck finished in a dead heat for second by a neck, but was later disqualified and placed fourth after drifting in and impeding a rival.
"He's got a great turn of foot and he didn't bodycheck anybody today," said Team Valor representative Terry Smith, who saw the dark bay elevate his career earnings to $185,440 and punch his ticket to the November 6 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G2) at Churchill Downs.
Produced from the multiple Group 1-placed stakes winner Secret Heart (SAf) (Fort Wood), the Kentucky-bred Pluck counts as half-siblings a yearling colt by Arch and a weanling filly by Hat Trick (Jpn). Secret Heart herself is a half-sister to the South African champion filly Promisefrommyheart (Elliodor). Both were produced by the multiple Group 1-placed Secret Pact (Bush Telegraph), a full sister to South African Horse of the Year London News. In addition to various South African pattern winners, this family has also yielded 2001 Spinaway S. (G1) winner Cashier's Dream (Service Stripe) and the multiple Grade 3 winner Four Gifts (Even the Score).
|(WEG/Michael Burns Photography)|
In the $195,084 Natalma for fillies, Robert S. Evans' homebred NEW NORMAL (Forestry) led throughout to take the one-mile feature by 1 1/2 lengths under Javier Castellano. Establishing splits of :23 4/5, :47 4/5 and 1:12 1/5, New Normal maintained a one-length advantage much of the way, turned back a brief challenge by Dos Lunas (Hennessy) a furlong out, and pulled away again to finish in 1:36 2/5.
The near 7-1 fifth choice in the field of eight, New Normal paid $15.80, $5.70 and $3.70. More Than Real (More Than Ready), the 4-5 favorite off a debut turf score at Saratoga, closed from sixth to easily capture second by 1 3/4 lengths over 4-1 second choice and stablemate Street Chimes (Street Cry [Ire]), who was buried down on the rail the entire trip. Dos Lunas weakened to fourth, 1 1/2 lengths farther back. More Than Real paid $2.70 and $2.40, while Street Chimes returned $3.80.
The exacta paid $38.90 and the 5-7-2 trifecta was worth $170.20. Following Dos Lunas across the wire were Pulling for Dixie (Pulpit), Molinaro Social (Line of Departure), Sheba's Secret (Kingmambo) and The Platinum Angel (Roman Ruler).
Roxy Gap (Indian Charlie), who was undefeated in three starts and figured to be one of the favorites for the Natalma, was scratched Saturday morning after spiking a temperature.
"If she's okay, we'll look to the Mazarine (S. [Can-G3] on October 9) and then hopefully, we can set our sights on getting to the Breeders' Cup," said Mark Casse, the trainer of Roxy Gap.
This was the third career start and second win over the Woodbine turf for the Kentucky-bred New Normal. Fourth in her seven-furlong debut August 2, the bay returned to the track August 28 and led gate-to-wire to win a maiden at the same distance by 2 3/4 lengths. She's now bankrolled $152,178.
"She's a big, strong filly," trainer Mark Frostad said. "She was a little plain, but she's developed very nicely along the way along. We thought we'd give her a shot in here and she rewarded us.
"I'm certainly hopeful (of running in the November 5 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf [G2] at Churchill Downs)," Frostad continued. "I'm sure we're all of the same mind at this point. If everything's well, it'll be a go."