Rakoff Dedicates First Win to Late Mentor Warren

Rakoff Dedicates First Win to Late Mentor Warren

In French, ‘petite lapin’ means ‘small rabbit,’ but for David Rakoff, it will always carry a much greater significance.

Rakoff earned his first victory as a trainer in his 18th start when Petite Lapin, a 2-year-old chestnut filly owned by Breakin Wind Farm, rallied from her far outside post for a 1 ¼-length score in Sunday’s finale at Gulfstream Park.

Petite Lapin had been trained by longtime South Florida horseman Fred Warren, who died suddenly at the age of 80 on October 3. Based at Gulfstream Park West, Rakoff had owned horses with Warren and worked as his assistant for the past 15 years.

“That win was for Fred,” Rakoff said. “I do this every day thinking about Fred. Everything we still do is for Fred.”

It was the 1980s when Rakoff began his association with Warren, who won 1,070 races and more than $12 million in purse earnings over a 45-year career, highlighted by Florida-bred stakes winner Island Skipper.

Warren had 12 wins from 115 starts in 2014 before his passing.

“It was a shock,” Rakoff said. “One day he was there and the next day he wasn’t. He was in a hospital for a few months, but it was sudden. We drove up to Ocala and came right back. I still think about it every day. I still don’t park in his parking spot. I don’t take his chair out. I leave all his awnings up, everything. I know he’s looking down now. He’s happy.”

Petite Lapin was the second also-eligible in Sunday’s finale, a $23,000 maiden claming event at 7 ½-furlongs on the turf. She drew into the race with two early scratches, and broke from outside post 12 under jockey Miguel Vasquez.

After saving some ground early, Petite Lapin came with a flourish down the middle of the stretch to overtake Danube River and win in 1:33.35. Sent off at 12-1, she returned $26.80.

“It felt real good to finally get the monkey off my back,” Rakoff said. “I thought she had a big shot. I saw she had a lot of trouble on the far turn. He had a lot of horse but was in some trouble so I was just hoping she got through. I was hoping she’d draw in because I thought she had a good shot to win. The only thing I was afraid of was being in the 12 hole going 7 ½ furlongs, but the jock rode her perfect. I told him to save all the ground you can on the first turn and let the horse do the rest.”

Rakoff credited the support around him for easing the transition to becoming the head trainer.

“I knew one day I would take over, but I was hoping not for another 10 years,” he said. “It was kind of all of a sudden I had to take everything over, but we got everything together and I had good help. Everybody at Gulfstream has been very supportive. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here right now. They really went above and beyond. They got me going in the right direction and keep me going.”

Source: Gulfstream Park

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