FT. LAUDERDALE S. | PURSE: $200,000 | 4-YEAR-OLDS AND UP | GRADE 2 | 1 1/16-MILES (TURF)
Waterford Stable's Summer Front had to catch the loose-on-the-lead Tetradrachm in Saturday's Grade 2, $200,000 Ft. Lauderdale at Gulfstream Park, and the 6-5 favorite duly delivered his customary turn of foot to prevail. Trained by Christophe Clement and confidently handled by Joe Bravo, the admirably-consistent turf performer notched his seventh career stakes victory.
In a race lacking a dedicated front runner, Tetradrachm loomed as the likeliest to assume the role of controlling speed, and he nearly executed the theft. The 5-1 chance got away with slow splits of :25, :49 and 1:12 1/5 on the firm turf, stalked by Howe Great. Summer Front was nestled in a ground-saving spot just off the pace, traveling comfortably, and needing only a way through to establish his authority.
Tetradrachm shot clear entering the stretch, but that left a golden opening on the rail for Summer Front, and the favorite was quick to exploit it. Collaring Tetradrachm in the final yards, Summer Front pulled away by three-quarters of a length and completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:42 1/5.
"Turning for home, we were looking for a place to turn him loose," Bravo said. "When we found a seam, he just exploded. There wasn't a lot of pace in the race, but the thing about Summer Front is that he needs to turn off behind horses. When he sees daylight, he is just a monster when he turns for home.
"Look what he did today -- that was a really special move to overcome such a slow pace," his rider continued. "It isn't really about the horses he was in against. It was the pace. Any horse that goes that slow is going to be hard to catch."
There was a gap of 2 3/4 lengths back to Nikki's Sandcastle, who held off Slumber for third by a half-length. Slumber's rider, Julien Leparoux, claimed foul against Joe Rocco Jr. aboard Nikki's Sandcastle, alleging interference at the head of the lane. The stewards disallowed it after reviewing the video, however, and the result stood.
Utley crossed the wire fifth, followed by Hierro, Howe Great and defending champion Mucho Mas Macho. The main-track-only entries Suns Out Guns Out and Csaba were scratched. Csaba instead defended his title in the Hal's Hope one race later, winding up sixth.
Summer Front, who furnished a $4.40 win payout, has compiled a record of 16-8-2-3, $704,140. The son of War Front was unbeaten from three starts as a juvenile, including scores in the King Cugat at Aqueduct and the Dania Beach at Gulfstream. Making his three-year-old debut in the 2012 Lexington over Keeneland's Polytrack, he tried a surface other than turf for the first time, and was along belatedly for second. A dirt experiment in the Peter Pan fared even worse, resulting in an eighth, and he spent the rest of the season on the grass.
Extricating himself from a pocket to get up in time in the Hill Prince, Summer Front easily accounted for the Duluth at Saratoga, and went on to place third in both the Secretariat and Jamaica. He concluded his sophomore season with a sixth in the Hollywood Derby.
Summer Front was a troubled third in his 2013 debut in a March 3 allowance over this course. Successful in the April 20 Miami Mile Handicap next time out, he returned from a four-month holiday to capture the Cliff Hanger at Monmouth on August 25. A tilt at the October 5 Shadwell Turf Mile went awry when the contest was transferred to the Keeneland Polytrack, and he ended up a lackluster seventh. Summer Front reverted to turf for the November 29 Citation Handicap at Hollywood, only to miss by a whisker to Silentio, but earned his first Grade 2 laurel here.
"If you look at his races," Clement noted, "he gets in trouble. You have to ride him that way, covered up, wait and make one run. He's got a great turn of foot, as you can see. Billy Mott's horse (Tetradrachm) ran a great race, and he really opened up at the quarter-pole. I knew it would take a really good horse to get him, and he's a really good horse."
Clement is considering Grade 1 company for his follow-up, with the logical choices being the February 9 Gulfstream Park Handicap and the March 8 Frank E. Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita.
"I think most probably either the (1 1/8-mile) Gulfstream Park Handicap, if they don't kill me with the weight, or the Kilroe Mile, one of the two," the trainer said. "I like the Gulfstream race because he trains very well at Payson (Park) and it's easy for me to come here. I also like the Kilroe Mile because at a mile you usually get a really strong pace, and when you've got a good turn of foot it's nice.
"He's got such a spectacular turn of foot."
Bred in Kentucky by Graceville Breeding, Summer Front was a $475,000 Keeneland April two-year-old in training purchase. He was produced by the unraced Rose of Summer, a daughter of El Prado, who also reared Grade 1 queen Laragh and reigning Foxbrook Champion Hurdle winner Bluegrass Summer.
Rose of Summer is herself a half-sister to Grade 1 victor Siphonic and stakes winner Mountain Girl. Also hailing from this family is multiple Grade 2 winner Dixie Dot Com.