By David Joseph —-
Nicks Poised to Join Rare Club in $400,000 FTBOA In Reality
Stakes Winner Soutache, Maiden Maranatha Represent Trainer in FSS Finale
14-Race Program Features Six Stakes Worth $1.1 Million in Purses
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – One is a stakes winner and the other is a maiden, but both Soutache and Maranatha will have something in common when they attempt to help trainer Ralph Nicks join some elite company in Saturday’s $400,000 In Reality division of the FTBOA Florida Sire Stakes at Gulfstream Park.
The In Reality for colts and geldings and the $400,000 My Dear Girl for fillies, both at 1 1/16 miles, comprise the third and final legs of the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association’s annual series for 2-year-olds sired by nominated stallions standing in Florida.
Supporting the FSS features on the 14-race program are four $75,000 turf stakes – the Armed Forces for 2-year olds, Our Dear Peggy for 2-year-old fillies and Mr. Steele for 3-year-olds and up, all at one mile; and the 1 1/16-mile Monroe for fillies and mares 3 and up.
First race post time is noon.
A victory by either GoldMark Farm’s Soutache or Jacks or Better homebred Maranatha would make Nicks just the eighth trainer to sweep all three legs of the series since it began in 1982, and just the second to do it with two different horses. Soutache was a hard-fought winner of the seven-furlong Affirmed Sept. 2 after finishing third to injured stablemate Phantom Ro in the Dr. Fager Aug. 5.
Other trainers to win all three legs with different horses are Manny Tortora with Sea Emperor and Mecke in 1994 and Stanley Gold with Sing Praises and Twotwentyfive A in 2014.
“We’ve had a great meet already. We’ve earned a lot of purse money which has been fabulous for the clients and everybody involved,” Nicks said. “To sweep one in basically my third year participating in the stallion stakes would be an outstanding accomplishment. Just being the third year we’ve already won three with [filly Dude Fantasy] last year the two this year. I think it’s been very rewarding to us already win, lose or draw on the weekend.”
Soutache, by multiple graded stakes-winning 2-year-old Backtalk, is the only horse in the In Reality to compete in all three races of the FSS series. He was a stubborn third behind Phantom Ro and favored Dunk in the six-furlong Dr. Fager, then came back to dispose of both horses and catch determined leader World of Trouble in the Affirmed.
The Affirmed went in sizzling splits of 22.16, 44.84 and 1:08.97 before Soutache hit the wire in a final time of 1:22.46. World of Trouble, 6 ¼ lengths ahead of favored Phantom Ro, also returns in the In Reality.
“He ran very fast. I hope he doesn’t bounce off of it as hard as he ran,” Nick said. “He ran very, very fast numbers on the sheets and three races in a row for babies is tough. That’s why I call it the Florida Sire Triple Crown instead of the Florida Sire Stakes because it’s taxing on a young horse.
“He’s carried his weight and everything fine,” he added. “He just ran so fast the other day, that’s the thing that concerns me. I’m not a big numbers guy but he ran a very fast number and it can set you up for a little bit of a bounce. With that and the distance, there’s some questions to be answered on Saturday.”
Maranatha, a chestnut son of Hear No Evil, ran third in a pair of maiden special weight events this summer at Gulfstream, beaten two lengths in his Aug. 20 debut going five furlongs. He came up 2 ½ lengths short in his second start, stretched out to 5 ½ furlongs Sept. 4, and Nicks is confident the extra ground will be to his benefit.
“He’s been third twice and both were solid races,” Nicks said. “He comes running, kind of a real steady, grinder type. I think he will love the distance; the longer the better.”
Tyler Gaffalione, looking to wrap up the summer meet riding title, has the call on Soutache from Post 3, while Sebastien Saez is named on Maranatha outside Post 6. All horses will carry 122 pounds.
Jose Pinchin, who swept last year’s FSS series with Three Rules, will look to play spoiler with Highborn, a High Cotton gelding he trains for his wife, Tracy. Highborn also exits the Affirmed, flattening out after making a brief bid and winding up fourth by 6 ¾ lengths in his stakes debut.
In his previous start, Highborn romped by 7 ¼ lengths in a front-running maiden triumph under jockey Edgard Zayas, who has the call again after riding Phantom Ro in the Affirmed.
“He’s doing good. He went into the last race just off his maiden win so he’ll be a better horse this time,” Jose Pinchin said. “It wasn’t a bad race. For a horse that had just broken his maiden, he ran well. He’s working well and doing everything good. We’ve got Zayas back on him so he should run a little bit better. He’ll get the mile and a sixteenth, for sure.”
His Name is Sue, Tip Sheet and Yeehaw complete the In Reality field. Ca Sal Stables’ His Name is Sue is coming off a half-length debut victory going five furlongs Sept. 20 at Gulfstream for trainer Kathleen O’Connell, a nine-time FSS race winner.
Arindel’s Tip Sheet was a three-quarter length maiden winner two starts back before losing the rider midway through the Dr. Fager, coming back to run third as the favorite in a 5 ½-furlong starter-optional claimer Aug. 25, his most recent effort. Yeehaw has a second and third in three lifetime tries, all at Gulfstream, the last coming July 1.
Gulfstream Park is a Stronach Group company, North America’s leading Thoroughbred racetrack owner/operator. The Stronach Group racetracks include Santa Anita Park, Gulfstream Park & Casino, Golden Gate Fields, Portland Meadows, Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course, home of the world-famous Preakness. The company owns and operates the Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida, and is one of North America’s top race horse breeders through its award-winning Adena Springs operation. The Stronach Group is one of the world’s largest suppliers of pari-mutuel wagering systems, technologies and services. Its companies include AmTote, a global leader in wagering technology; XpressBet, an Internet and telephone account wagering service; and Monarch Content Management, which acts as a simulcast purchase and sales agent of horseracing content for numerous North American racetracks and wagering outlets.