A tough trip for even-money favorite Heart to Heart and a Hall of Fame trip under jockey Javier Castellano helped Doctor Mounty pull off a mild upset in Saturday's $100,000 Tropical Turf (G3) at Gulfstream Park.
Heart to Heart, a multiple Grade 1 stakes winner who was making his 2019 debut in the mile turf stakes for 4-year-olds and up, threw his head in the air at the start and was unable to fill the pacesetter's role that has proven to a key to his success. Pushed four-wide on the first turn, the Brian Lynch-trained 8-year-old rated a few lengths off the pace under Julien Leparoux and made a sweeping move to the lead in the stretch, only to come up short approaching the wire to finish third.
“When he broke he threw his head up and hit me in the face. After that he relaxed good for me and ran a nice race. We were too wide [around the first turn],” Leparoux said.
Meanwhile, Shug McGaughey-trained Doctor Mounty, a graded-stakes winner who finished eighth in the 1 1/8-mile Fort Lauderdale (G2) Dec. 15, was the beneficiary of a stress-free trip Saturday, settling off the pace set by White Flag, who set fractions of 23.53 and 46.87 seconds for the first half-mile while pursued by Vici, Holiday Stone and Mr. Freeze. White Flag, the 3-1 second choice ridden by Jose Ortiz, showed the way into the stretch, but was no match for the outside drive by Heart to Heart, who had launched a sweeping move on the turn into the stretch. Just as it appeared that Heart to Heart may have overcome adversity, Doctor Mounty and Your Only Man surged late. Doctor Mounty prevailed by a length over Your Only Man, who nosed out Heart to Heart for second money.
“I had a great, great trip. That's what I was looking for today,” Castellano said. “He broke well out of the gate, but he's a come-from-behind horse. I said, 'Let's take advantage of all the speed in the race.' The way the race unfolded worked out great for my horse. I sat behind horses and made one run.”
Larry Pratt and Dave Alden's Doctor Mounty ran a mile over a firm turf course in 1:34.62 to win for the seventh time in 14 career starts, which include a triumph in the Baltimore Washington Turf Cup (G3) at Laurel last fall.
“His last race [in the Fort Lauderdale], he didn't run that bad. It was just too tough. He was 70-1. Today, he's 5-1. He only got beat eight lengths and there were five Grade 1 winners in the race,” McGaughey said. “I've been a little bit puzzled about how far he wants to run. Today, the big thing was to get him relaxed. Javier got him to relax and when he get that, he finishes up like he did today.”
McGaughey said Doctor Mounty is likely to run next at Gulfstream in either the Canadian Turf (G3) March 2 or the Appleton (G3) March 29.
“It depends where I want to run Breaking the Rules,” said McGaughey, who saddled Breaking the Rules for an impressive victory in the Tropical Park Derby at Gulfstream Dec. 29.
CORRECTION: The correct name of the runner-up is Your Only Man. The original version of the article had an incorrect name.
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