In his first start since finishing off the board in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita on Nov. 2, Medal Count rallied late to earn a dead-heat victory with 53-1 longshot Drover Road in Sunday's featured ninth race at Gulfstream Park.
The 3-year-old son of Dynaformer was making his turf debut in the $48,750 Optional Claiming Allowance. Although the Dale Romans-trained colt took to the green in the 7 1/2-furlong race, it's not likely at all that he will race exclusively on turf in the future.
“[Dynaformer] has a lot of horses that can run on the dirt and this is one of them,” Romans said. “He'll be back on the dirt before the Derby trail.”
Favored at 2-1, Medal Count was rated a few lengths off a dawdling pace set by Scorched Cat and pressed by Drover Road and jockey Luis Saez along the backstretch and around the far turn. After posting fractions of :25.10, 51.01 and 1:15.06, the early leaders picked up the pace through the stretch run. Asked by Corey Lanerie for his run in the stretch, Medal Count kicked in with a late surge to hit the finish line at the same time as Drover Road, a half-length ahead of Scorched Cat.
“It ended up with no pace. One of the reasons I wanted to run him so short was that I wanted some pace for him to run after, but it never showed up,” Romans said. “But he was game. He really had to belly down that last sixteenth of a mile. It didn't look like he was going to get up for any part of it. I'm very impressed. He has a lot of room to improve. He has all the natural talent in the world.”
Drover Road and Medal Count ran 7 1/2 furlongs in 1:32.32 while each earning $17,400.
Drover Road, a son of Dixie Union trained by Antonio Sano, was coming off a maiden victory in his fifth lifetime start and earned his second victory in three starts on turf. He paid $41.20 to win.
Medal Count, who paid $3.80, had run three times previously, winning his debut at Ellis Park by six lengths before finishing fifth in the Bourbon (G3) at Keeneland and 11th in the Juvenile.
Medal Count's produced a very welcome visit to the winner's circle for Romans, who had seemed snake-bitten with a rash of second-place finishes at Gulfstream recently.
“The horses have turned the corner. We had a real tough year last year with a lot of sickness and stuff,” said the 2012 Eclipse Award-winning trainer. “It looks like we've turned the corner.”
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