Special Envoy puts on special performance in Hansel

August 05, 2017 02:06pm
Special Envoy wins 2017 Hansel
Photo: Maryland Jockey Club

Despite a slow break and a surface that had not previously been to his liking, Mr. and Mrs. Bertram Firestone’s homebred Special Envoy put on a special performance Saturday at Laurel Park, going all the way on the lead to win the $75,000 Hansel by 8 ¼ lengths.
The 1 1/16-mile Hansel for 3-year-olds and up over Laurel’s world-class turf course was the first of four grass stakes restricted to Virginina-bred/sired horses worth $300,000 in purses on the 11-race program. It was joined by the $75,000 William M. Backer, also at 1 1/16 miles, and the $75,000 Meadow Stable and $75,000 Camptown, each at 5 ½ furlongs.
It was the second straight win, both in stakes, for the Arnaud Delacour-trained Special Envoy ($2.10), following the Edward P. Evans against fellow state-breds June 24 at Laurel. The 6-year-old gelded son of Stroll completed the distance in 1:46.59 over an Exceller Turf Course layout listed as yielding.  
“He’s coming along at the right time. He’s always been a nice horse but timing is everything. I think we got it right this year,” Delacour said. “He hasn’t really performed as well [on soft turf] as he did on the firm in the past but he did pretty good today. I think the turf is in very good shape, anyway, maybe a little bit on the soft side because the times are slow, but there’s plenty of grass on top.”
Heavily favored at 1-9, Special Envoy cruised to the front from his rail post with some urging from regular rider Daniel Centeno, then settled on the lead through an easy quarter-mile in 25.33 seconds and a half in 49.99 with mild pressure from Titan Alexander.
Special Envoy began to edge away from his rivals as they approached the far turn and opened up once straightened for home under a hand ride by Centeno. Mr. Magician came on for second at odds of 25-1, 2 ½ lengths ahead of Speed Gracer. It was another neck back to Jump Ship, followed by Titan Alexander.
“It was a short field today with not much speed,” Centeno said. “The plan was just get close to the lead and go from there. He broke a little slow and I put him in the race, and after that it was over.”
Delacour said he would point Special Envoy to the $60,000 Bert Allen for Virginia-bred/sired horses Saturday, Sept. 30 at Laurel.
“I think it would make a lot of sense if the horse is right,” he said.
Sweet Sandy Springs Upset in $75,000 William M. Backer
Fig Tree Farm’s Sweet Sandy went last to first to pass even-money favorite Queen Caroline and catch Armoire near the finish to give trainer Danielle Hodson her first career stakes victory in the $75,000 William M. Backer for fillies and mares 3 and up.
Sent off at 13-1, Sweet Sandy ($29.80) and jockey Jevian Toledo completed the 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:45.90 over a yielding Bowl Game Turf Course, winning for the first time in five starts since being claimed for $20,000 last fall at Suffolk Downs.
“She’s just a lovely filly to deal with. She’s just all heart,” Hodson, a successful former steeplechase jockey, said. “We were more worried about the distance than the company but I said to just try and get her running a little bit earlier. Obviously with Queen Caroline and the others it was a tough enough group, but she got there today.”
Grace Is Ready, at 21-1, was an eager front-runner going in 24.26 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 48.10 for the half, tracked intently to her outside by Queen Caroline, whose multiple stakes wins include the Nellie Mae Cox against state-breds June 24 at Laurel.
After six furlongs in 1:13.11 Grace Is Ready was still in command with Queen Caroline poised to strike, but it was Armoire who made a bold move to the inside to take the lead entering the stretch. Armoire, second to Queen Caroline in the Nellie Mae Cox, opened up in the lane but could not withstand the furious rally on the outside from Sweet Sandy, who was unhurried racing last of eight in the early going before embarking on her dramatic late run to get up by a neck.
Armoire was a clear second, 4 ¾ lengths ahead of Queen Caroline. Street Miz, Andrasta, Complete St., Grace Is Ready and Secret Or Not rounded out the field.
“By the eighth pole I didn’t think I was going to get there on time but by the sixteenth pole she just gave me everything she had and came flying and said, ‘I got it,’” Toledo said. “She’s a really nice filly. She relaxed pretty good in the beginning and when I asked her she gave me everything she had.”

Source: Maryland Jockey Club


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