UNITED NATIONS STAKES | PURSE: $500,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS & UP | GRADE 1 | 1 3/8 MILE
Easy front-runner Turbo Compressor, ridden with precision by Joe Bravo, put his six rivals to sleep and coasted to a 1 3/4-length victory over Air Support in the $505,000 United Nations Stakes July 7 at Monmouth Park.
Winner of the Colonial Turf Cup at 1 3/16 miles in similar style in his most recent start, Turbo Compressor had no trouble negotiating the U.N.'s extra three-sixteenths of a mile. The 4-year-old son of Halo's Image earned his first graded stakes triumph while winning for the third time in four lifetime starts on turf.
Todd Pletcher trains the winning bay ridgling for owners P and G Stable and Off the Hook. Bridlewood Farm bred Turbo Compressor, who is out of the Wild Event mare Dixieland Event, in Florida. Pletcher won the United Nations for the fourth time.
Turbo Compressor was sent off at odds of 5-2. Air Support ran second, with Al Khali third. Slim Shadey, the slight 2-1 favorite, was hard-ridden by David Flores to keep up on the far turn up after racing at the rear of the pack with co-second choice Brilliant Speed, and was never a factor. The final time for the 11 furlongs on firm going was a solid 2:12.88.
Breaking from the rail, Turbo Compressor got the early lead from 60-1 Freud's Honour and led that one comfortably as Bravo slowed the tempo. Al Kahli and Eldaafer tracked the leader while Slim Shadey and Brilliant Speed, slow to begin, fell back to the rear of the field. Turbo Compressor got away with a half-mile in :49.97 and the mile in 1:39.39.
Turbo Compressor increased his advantage over Freud's Honor when asked on the far turn with Air Support rallying on the outside for Alex Solis. Slim Shadey was under pressure from David Flores on the far outside but not responding, and Brilliant Speed also struggled while following Slim Shadey into the homestretch.
Taking a three-length in the lane, Turbo Compressor was in complete control as he reached the furlong pole and Bravo kept him going to the wire with a vigorous hand ride.
"I was just a passenger today," Bravo said. "This horse just keeps getting stronger as he gets older. He was a good dirt horse and now he's a great turf horse. Pace makes the race and we were able to get out there and control it on our terms. He was nice and relaxed the whole way and really kicked on in the lane when I called on him."
Air Support, who was fractious in the gate, swept past Freud's Honour to be a clear second but could not threaten the winner. He finished second, two lengths better than Al Khali and Rosie Napravnik. Freud's Honour was fourth, followed by 120-pound top weight Slim Shadey, Brilliant Speed, and Eldaafer.
"No one challenged the leader, which made it easy on him," Solis said of Air Support. "It's difficult to close under that scenario, but I'm proud of my horse, he ran very well."
The Southern California-based Slim Shadey was favored off back-to-back runner-up finishes in grade I events.
"He got slammed pretty good right at the start," Flores said. "I wanted to be in the top three spots early on, but after a start like that I had no choice but to be at the back."
Turbo Compressor began the year with a third-place finish behind Mucho Macho Man in the Sunshine Millions Classic Jan. 28 at Gulfstream Park.
Pletcher decided to try the turf for the first time in an allowance optional claiming race at 1 1/16 miles March 18 at Gulfstream and Turbo Compressor responded with a 5 1/2-length victory as the 6-5 favorite.
His only poor effort of the year came in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic May 5 at Churchill Downs when fading to eighth after prompting the pace over a "good" surface. Back on firm going for the Colonial Turf Classic June 16 at Colonial Downs, Turbo Compressor led all the way while breezing home 1 1/4 lengths in front of Air Support.
"He really flew home," noted Pletcher, who previously won the United Nations in 2003 with Balto Star and in 2006-07 with male turf champion English Channel. "He was able to lay down the fractions and that was just what we were looking for. He still came home in twenty-two and change and that's hard to do at a mile and three eighths.
"We'll take him to Saratoga and see what our options are. This horse is versatile; he's won from one mile to a mile and three eighths, so we have a lot of options for him."
Turbo Compressor, a $22,000 Ocala Breeders' Company purchase as a 2-year-old in April 2010, improved his career record to 14-7-1-2 with earnings of $920,960. The United Nations victory was worth $300,000.
The narrow second choice, Turbo Compressor carried 118 pounds and paid $7, $4.20, $3.20. Stuart Janney's homebred Air Support, winner of last year's Virginia Derby for trainer Shug McGaughey, returned $5.40 and $3.20. The exacta was worth $32.40. Al Khali paid $4.