After Sandiva’s dull effort in the Diana at Saratoga Race Course this past July, trainer Todd Pletcher decided to give the mare a freshening with an eye on the Gulfstream Park Championship meet.
The decision paid off in a big way when Al Shaqab Racing’s Sandiva successfully defended her $150,000 Marshua’s River title on Saturday afternoon. Ridden by Javier Castellano, the 6-year-old Sandiva came along late to post a half-length win over Sea Coast. The Pletcher-trained Isabella Sings, the pacesetter in the 1 1/16-mile turf race, finished third, a nose behind the runner-up.
While Isabella Sings opened up a lengthy lead, reeling off snappy fractions of 23.17 and 46.37, Sandiva was sitting in a cozy position in fifth. She began to move up around the far turn and was angled to the outside as the field turned for home.
Isabella Sings, who was ridden by Edgard Zayas, was kept to the task in the stretch. Sea Coast, who raced in second down the backstretch, launched an inside move in deep stretch, but it was Sandiva who motored past both of them in the final furlong.
“She’s a very straightforward classy horse who improves every year,” said Castellano, who was aboard Sandiva when she won last year’s Marshua’s River. “She never gets lazy. She does her own thing and enjoys herself. Todd [Pletcher] has done a phenomenal job bringing her back every single year. I liked the way she did it today. I had a perfect trip. It set up good because there was a lot of speed in the race.”
The Marshua’s River was Sandiva’s second start back following her break from racing. In her comeback start, at Gulfstream on Dec. 17, she finished second in the South Beach.
“She had a solid campaign and she seemed like she was just a touch off form and we knew that she loves Gulfstream,” Pletcher said. “We kind of intentionally freshened her up with these races in mind.”
Sandiva, who will be bred this year to Mshawish, the winner of the 2016 Donn Handicap (G1) for Pletcher and Al Shaqab Racing, may race once more in the $150,000 Suwannee River (G3) Feb. 11. The daughter of Footstepsinthesand won the 2015 Suwannee River.
“We’ll get with team Al Shaqab to see if she will have one more run or go on to be bred,” Pletcher said.
Sandiva, who elevated her record to 8-4-3 in 23 career starts and earnings to $751,277, returned $4.80 as the 7-5 favorite in the seven-horse field. She completed the distance over a firm turf course in 1:39.56.
Source: Gulfstream Park