Linda Shanahan, Mrs. M.V. Magnier and J.P. Magnier's A Bit Special lived up to her name Saturday at Gulfstream Park, rallying on the far outside through the stretch to edge stubborn pacesetter Fortunate Girl by a neck in the $75,000 Wait a While Stakes.
The one-mile Wait a While on grass was the last of six stakes for 2-year-olds on an 11-race program anchored by the Clasico Interacional del Caribe, an international festival for Latin American and Caribbean horses featuring five stakes worth more than $700,000 in purses.
The win was the second straight, both in stakes, and third in four career starts for A Bit Special ($6.80), the 2-1 favorite in a field of 10 ridden by Romero Ramsay Maragh for trainer Patrick Biancone. The winning time was 1:35.67 over a firm turf course.
Fortunate Girl, breaking from the far outside at odds of 13-1, was skillfully guided to the front by jockey Jose Ortiz, going a quarter-mile in 23.86 seconds and a half in 48.42 under mild pressure from 19-1 long shot Malibu Dawn with Red Rounder and Aunt Hattie in behind.
Maragh kept A Bit Special in the clear four wide down the backside but found himself surrounded by horses on the turn as six furlongs went in 1:12.29. Patiently waiting for an opening, Maragh tipped A Bit Special to the outside once straightened for home and set his sights on Fortunate Girl, coming with a determined run to get up at the wire.
Fortunate Girl was second, 2 ¾ lengths ahead of stakes winner Vow to Recover in third. Red Rounder was fourth, another three-quarters of a length back.
Bred in England, A Bit Special broke her maiden at first asking on the Gulfstream turf Aug. 19, then came from well back but fell a neck short in the Sharp Susan Stakes Sept. 1. She hadn't raced since cruising by three lengths in the one-mile Our Dear Peggy Stakes Sept. 29.
“After she won last time, the owner and myself decided not to go for the big races, but give her a chance to grow and as you can see she's grown a lot and has become quite big. She has a massive turn of foot,” Biancone said. “The only thing today is it was an inside track, where she didn't have much of a stretch to run out. She doesn't like the whip. The only time she was beaten is when Romero gave her a smack and she didn't like that. She just does her job, she's an amazing filly. We'll go step by step now, not sure if we'll wait one month or so, but we have plenty of time.”
Godolphin's Classic Fit, making her stakes debut off back-to-back wins, came with a steady run on the far outside to catch Michael Stidham-trained stablemate Sweet Diane in deep stretch and get up by a neck in the $75,000 Hut Hut.
Second-longest shot in a field of seven at 13-1, Classic Fit ($29.80) completed one mile in 1:39.84 over a fast main track under jockey Albin Jimenez. Sweet Diane was second, a length ahead of graded-stakes tested Bella Ciao in fourth. Lovely Luvy, the 5-2 favorite, ran last.
A bay daughter of champion Bernardini, Classic Fit entered the Hut Hut off wins on dirt at Monmouth Park and the synthetic surface at Presque Isle Downs, both going a mile, but hadn't raced since Oct. 2. She drew outside Post 7 and settled early for Jimenez as Bimini and Lovely Luvy duked it out up front through fractions of 24.30 and 47.39 seconds.
Sweet Diane swooped past the tiring leaders to establish command after going six furlongs in 1:12.69 as Classic Fit moved into contention and was set down for the drive through the stretch, gaining steadily before getting the best of her stablemate late.
Monarch Stables' Bye Bye J sat off rail-sitting pacesetter Iva to the top of the stretch before swinging past and surging clear for kick off Saturday's stakes action with a two-length victory in the $75,000 House Party.
The Arkansas-bred daughter of Uncaptured, ridden by Miguel Vasquez for trainer Ron Spatz, ran six furlongs in 1:12.26 to improve to 2-0 over Gulfstream's main track. A 4 ½-furlong maiden winner April 26, Bye Bye J ($14.80) was third against winners Nov. 23 over the turf at Gulfstream Park West in her previous start.
“You don't get Beyer [Speed Figures] for 4 ½ furlongs, so it was hard to gauge,” Spatz said. “We backed off her for a while. When we had her ready to run, we couldn't get a race for her, so we ran her in a prep on turf at Gulfstream Park West. Hopefully, it helped her. It appears that it did. “
Unbeaten through two starts, Iva coasted to the lead under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, posting fractions of 22.52 and 46.25 seconds with Bye Bye J glued to her right flank. The top two separated from the field around the turn when Bye Bye J asserted herself and drew off. Even-money favorite Paula Andrea finished sixth from outside Post 8.
“Hopefully, we'll run her once more here and we'll take her to Arkansas,” Spatz said. “They have a $100,000 stake for 3-year-old fillies in February.”
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