Garter and Tie made it back to the Gulfstream Park winner's circle in smart fashion Saturday, stepping away to victory in the $75,000 Ocala Stakes by 10 ½ lengths.
Jacks or Better Farm's homebred colt rallied well off the pace before drawing off to a convincing victory in the 6 ½-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds that serves as a prep for the $75,000 Carry Back on the June 29 Summit of Speed program at Gulfstream.
“It's nice to see him win one where he didn't grind it out. Today, he ran by them,” trainer Ralph Nicks said. “He settled a little more early and let the pace go. He built up a head of steam and kept running.”
Garter and Tie was one of the stars of the 2018 FTBOA Florida Sire Stakes Series, finishing on the board in all three legs and winning the $200,000 Affirmed at seven furlongs. The son of Brooks 'n Down won went on to win one-turn mile Smooth Air in his juvenile finale before stepping onto the Road to the Florida Derby. Following off-the-board finishes around two turns in the Holy Bull (G2) and Florida Derby (G1), the Florida-bred colt returned with a pair of one-turn runner-up finishes in stakes company before his breakthrough victory Saturday.
“He's starting to mature. He behaved himself better in the paddock today,” Nicks said. “There are little things that he's starting to do better than in the past.”
Sent to post as the 7-5 favorite, Garter and Tie settled far off a fast early pace set by Leaky Cup, who was pressed by Gladiator King while posting sharp fractions of 21.93 and 44.65 seconds for a half-mile. Seismic Jolt, the 5-2 second choice ridden by Edgard Zayas, stalked the pace along the backstretch, made a sweeping move to the lead on the turn into the homestretch as Garter and Tie was hitting his best stride under Jeffrey Sanchez, looming boldly on the far outside. The long-striding Nicks trainee continued on to overpower his competition to win going away.
“Today, I made the decision to let him be more comfortable at the break and then when I feel he's ready, I started moving,” Sanchez said. “When I got out close to the quarter pole he started moving much better and faster than last time. I didn't think I could lose the race”
Garter and Tie ran 6 ½ furlongs in 1:15.92. Seismic Jolt, who was making his first start in four months, held onto second, a head in front of a late-rallying Café Du Monde.
Garter and Tie is being pointed to the Carry Back, a seven-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds on the Summit of Speed card that will be co-headlined by the $250,000 Princess Rooney for fillies and mares and the $250,000 Smile Sprint for 3-year-olds and up.
“He'll go to the Carry Back. My main goal is the Amsterdam [Grade 2 for 3-year-olds at 6 ½ furlongs on July 28] at Saratoga,” Nicks said.
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