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Star Riders Usher In Gulfstream's Summer Meet

Gulfstream Park 615 X 400
Photo: Eclipse Spotswire
Opening Day of Gulfstream Park’s first summer meeting was celebrated Monday by four of Thoroughbred racing’s brightest and most successful stars.

Two-time defending riding champion Javier Castellano and Hall of Famers John Velazquez and Edgar Prado, as well as Joel Rosario, travelled from New York to bring their star power to Gulfstream and ride on the historic program.

A total of $2,493,688 was wagered on the eight-race card. Gulfstream, which will adopt a Saturday, Sunday and holiday Monday schedule through November, will hold a special Fourth of July program Thursday.

“We’re pleased with the way the public and the horsemen responded to the first day of our summer meeting,” said Gulfstream president Tim Ritvo. “We’re also thankful to jockeys John Velazquez, Javier Castellano, Edgar Prado and Joel Rosario for coming out to ride, meet and greet our fans and take part in our opening day. We’re looking forward to our July 4 program, all the family-friendly activities, and our first stakes race of the summer, the $100,000 Armed Forces.”

It was a particularly enjoyable homecoming for Rosario, who rode three winners on the card. After sweeping the early daily double aboard Tyler’s Wildcat ($17.60) in the first race and Kitten’s Gift ($2.60) in the second race, he guided Heiko ($3.40) into the winner’s circle after the fifth race.

“It’s great to be back here and I’m happy to win the first race,” said Rosario following the first half of the $29.60 double. “It’s a good welcome back.”

Rosario rode fulltime at Gulfstream Park for the first time during the 2012-2013 meet for the expressed purpose of increasing his chances for finding a mount for the Kentucky Derby. The 28-year-old native of the Dominican Republic rode Orb in an allowance race at Gulfstream Park and ended up in the Churchill Downs winner’s circle with the Shug McGaughey-trained colt after this year’s Derby.

“It was exactly what we were looking for – to have a chance to ride a horse like Orb in the Derby. I have to say, ‘thank you,’ to Shug McGaughey,” Rosario said. “I have to thank all of the people who have supported me and gave me the chance to come here and ride their horses and find a Derby winner. It makes being here very special for me.”

Castellano has always been at home at Gulfstream Park, where he has captured the jockey’s title the past two seasons, including a record-breaking, 112-win meeting in 2011-2012.

“I feel like this is my second home. I love being here. I want to help out here, especially for (Gulfstream Chairman) Mr. (Frank) Stronach,” Castellano said. “He’s been good to us. He’s put a lot of time and money into racing in South Florida. I’m proud to be a part of it. I want to support what’s he’s doing at Gulfstream.”

Rosario, Castellano, Velazquez and Prado greeted fans following the third race while signing autographs and memorabilia.

Silver Sashay, ridden by apprentice Hugo Sanchez, posted a 12-1 upset in the featured seventh race while registering a 2 ¾ victory over Felixia, the 6-5 favorite ridden by Castellano. Trained by Leo Azpurua Jr., Silver Sashay ran six furlongs in 1:11.15 to prevail in the $35,000 optional claiming allowance for 3-year-old fillies.

Peter Walder-trained Morality captured a 150-yard race that was conducted Monday morning as a prelude for Gulfstream’s kick-off program of its summer meeting. Run under the auspices of Gulfstream Park Thoroughbred After Racing Program’s not-for-profit racing license, the dash was run out of the mile chute on the backstretch. Morality ($5) edged Sayyourpraysnow. Grave finished third. The most eventful moment for jockey Edgard Zayas came following the race when a rein snapped while trying to pull up his mount, which he finally managed to do leaving the front-stretch.

“It was fun. It was just rush out of the gate and have fun,” said Zayas, who also rode Entrada ($8.80) to victory in Monday afternoon’s sixth race. “When I tried to pull up, the rein broke, but everything was OK.”





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