Sunday, December 2, 2012
Updated: December 3, 11:06 AM ET
Philly Ace shows grit
By Claire Novak
Philly Ace closed with a good kick in the $100,000 Tropical Turf Handicap at Calder Race Course & Casino Nov. 30, running down 9-5 favorite Hollinger to record his first graded stakes score on the Florida track's closing day of the season.
Coming off a third-place finish behind Boisterous and Lake Drop in the Nov. 3 Red Smith Handicap at Aqueduct Racetrack, the 4-year-old Pennsylvania homebred Smart Strike gelding went 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.22 on firm going for Brushwood Stable and trainer Christophe Clement, who won the 1999 Tropical Turf with Hibernian Rhapsody. He posted a half-length victory.
Meet-leading jockey Luis Saez gave the eventual winner the kind of ride that brought him to the winner's circle with a record-breaking 118 wins at Calder this season. Hugging the hedge after a quick break from the one hole, Saez patiently settled his mount in fifth while Hollinger set opening fractions of :24.57 and :50.19 one length ahead of Empire Builder.
"The trainer told me that the horse liked being along the rail," Saez said of his pre-race instructions. "So I broke good and I took him right there."
Through three-quarters in 1:14.64, Saez was able to improve his position along the rail to fourth, and when an opening presented itself turning for home, he wheeled his runner out to the three path and set down for the drive.
"Going down the backstretch I had a lot of horse and was just waiting for the stretch," Saez said. "When [jockey] Elvis [Trujillo aboard a tiring Sleepless Knight] came out, that was good for me because I was able to get in the clear, and my horse passed them all with no problem."
Philly Ace responded with a nimble turn of foot, easily blew by Empire Builder, and ran down the tiring Hollinger with energy on the outside.
Sent off at odds of 3-1, Philly Ace returned $8.60, $4, and $2.60 while Hollinger brought $3.40 and $2.60. Empire Builder completed the $208 trifecta with a $5.20 show payoff, finishing 1 3/4 lengths farther back in third. Hoofit, Alley Oop Oop, Sleepless Knight, Good Better Best, Dannhauser, and Scorcher completed the order of finish. Citrus Kid and Mr. Irons scratched.
Philly Ace is out of the Polish Numbers mare Bloomy. The Tropical Turf victory improved his record to 7-2-2 from 14 starts, with earnings of $356,966.
With the completion of the Calder meet, racing in Florida moves to Gulfstream Park, where a Dec. 1 card kicks off with the Claiming Crown.