Off since the Derby, Vekoma returns a winner at Gulfsteam

Off since the Derby, Vekoma returns a winner at Gulfsteam
Photo: Ryan Thompson/Gulfstream Park

Vekoma, making his first start since the 2019 Kentucky Derby, returned to the races with a stakes score Saturday in Gulfstream Park’s $75,000 Sir Shackleton.

Connections hoped to bring Vekoma back on April 4 for the Carter Handicap (G1) at Aqueduct, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced indefinite postponement of that event. So the colt re-routed to the Sir Shackleton and got back to the winner’s circle Saturday.

The 4-year-old son of Candy Ride went postward as the 8-5 favorite in the Sir Shackleton, a seven-furlong dirt sprint for older horses. Jockey Manny Franco positioned Vekoma behind pace setter Yorkton early on while He Hate Me came from the outside post to challenge the leader through a half-mile in 45 seconds flat.

He Hate Me and Yorkton led the 10-horse field entering the stretch, while Franco moved Vekoma outside those two. Vekoma was much the best from there, moving on past and scoring by 3 3/4 lengths for a win that returned $5.20.

Vekoma stopped the clock in 1:21.92. Yorkton out-dueled He Hate Me for second, with Bourbon Resolution in fourth.

George Weaver trains the Kentucky-bred Vekoma, who’s owned by R.A. Hill Stable and Gatsas Stable. The colt won Aqueduct’s Nashua Stakes (G3) as a 2-year-old in 2018, then earned a spot in the 2019 Kentucky Derby starting gates by taking Keeneland’s Blue Grass Stakes (G2) last April.

Vekoma never factored in the Run for the Roses and was officially placed 12th following Maximum Security’s disqualification. He grabbed a quarter training at Saratoga last summer and didn’t resume serious training until January at Palm Beach Downs.

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