Bet down to 5-2 from her 8-1 morning-line odds, Roddy Valente, RAP Racing and West Point Thoroughbreds' Coach Rocks came flying late to capture the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks by a half-length on Florida Derby Day. The sophomore filly by Oxbow earned 100 points toward the Kentucky Oaks, guaranteeing herself a spot in the starting gate on the first Friday in May. Coach Rocks, ridden by Luis Saez for Dale Romans, covered 1 1/16 miles on the fast main track in 1:44.63. Run down in the shadow of the wire, 2-1 favorite Take Charge Paula was beaten just a half-length for second.
Jockey Luis Saez and Caoch Rocks found themselves in tight quarters going into the first turn, then settled in mid-pack along the rail as 80-1 long shot Eight Thirtyone ran the first quarter-mile in 23.47 seconds before being overtaken by Forward Gal (G3) winner Take Charge Paula after a half in 47.27.
Alter Moon, at 24-1, ran six furlongs in 1:12.22 to wrest the lead away on the turn, but it was short-lived as Take Charge Paula surged again and straightened for home with a clear advantage. Saez, meanwhile, had swung Coach Rocks to the far outside where she circled the field and set her sights on the leader, gaining with every stride under tireless encouragement from Saez and pulling clear by 1 ½ lengths.
“What a rough trip,” Saez said. “My plan was to break and be right up front, first or second, but there was a lot of speed in the race. Thankfully when we got to the three-eighths pole, it got clear and she took off. When we came to the stretch I thought the horse to beat was going to go, but my filly kicked fine and thank God we passed them.”
The winning time was 1:44.63 over a fast main track. Take Charge Paula, the narrow 2-1 favorite who also ran second in the Davona Dale (G2) March 3, was 10 lengths clear of Princess Warrior in third. It was another three lengths back to maiden Tell Your Mama in fourth.
Bred in Kentucky by Calumet Farm, Coach Rocks is out of the graded stakes placed El Prado mare Mexican Moonlight. She was originally a $125,000 yearling at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Select sale, and Romans selected her from the Fasig-Tipton Florida Select sale for $95,000. It took Coach Rocks seven starts to break her maiden, and she immediately stepped up to graded company in the Gulfstream Oaks. Overall, the filly has won two of her eight starts, with three seconds, to earn about $260,000.
“She figured the game out. I never expected her to lose. Every time I've brought her over, I thought she would win. It took time for her to figure it out that she is as good as she is,” Romans said. “When she swung out wide and finding her rhythm, I thought she would grind them down. I know she's fit and distance wasn't an issue.”
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