It has been a good month for jockey Florent Geroux. The month began with Geroux winning the Breeders' Cup Sprint aboard Illinois-bred Work All Week and came full circle as Geroux ended his month with a return to Illinois as he was aboard Red Rifle in the Hawthorne Gold Cup. The Grade 2, $250,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup initially looked to be a race that was full of early pace, but when all was said and done, it was the horse that made the early lead that crossed the wire first.
Prior to the start of the Gold Cup, favored Cary Street had some gate issues, rearing up in the gate and breaking his bit. After Cary Street settled and the gates sprung, Geroux put Red Rifle on the early lead over Abraham and Ever Rider (Arg). Covering the opening quarter in :23.89 and slowing down to get the half in :48.62, Red Rifle held a length lead on the backstretch. Moving into the turn, Geroux asked Red Rifle for more as he put away those chasing early while the field bunched behind him. Passing three-quarters in 1:12.81, Red Rifle opened up a three-length lead in the stretch as Mister Marti Gras, Call Me George and Effinex uncorked late rallies. At the wire, it was Red Rifle on top, winning by 2 ¼ lengths over Mister Marti Gras. Call Me George split horses for third while Effinex ran fourth. Red Rifle stopped the clock for the mile and a quarter in 2:03.24 over a surface listed as fast.
Red Rifle earned $150,000 for the Gold Cup victory, pushing his career earnings to $412,520 for owners Twin Creeks Racing Stables, LLC and trainer Todd Pletcher. Sent off at 6-1, Red Rifle returned $14.80, $7.60, and $4.80. Mister Marti Gras came back $5.60 and $3.80 while Call Me George paid $10.20 to show.
Jockey Florent Geroux commented on Red Rifle and his good month, “I never rode him before but I saw a lot of his races. He's been running in a lot of those mile and a half races. I knew he was a nice horse. He broke a track record at Sam Houston so it was nice to see him back on dirt. He really liked it. On paper it looked like there were a few horses that were going to go for the lead. Todd told me to just break sharp and if he made the lead, fine, if not just sit off the pace. I wasn't going to use him hard to make the lead and have him get tired in the stretch. Just make sure I had something left in the tank. The horse re-broke at the quarter pole. That was nice.”
Geroux spoke of his month, “This was a great month! It was great to win the Breeders' Cup Sprint but it was also nice to win this. This was special to me to win at home. This is where I started. This is where I learned to be a better jockey. This is where I honed my craft. All races are nice to win. The Breeders' Cup is big money and is on TV, but this race is special to me too. I used to ride here every day and this is the signature race. It's funny because three years ago Todd (Pletcher) called me to ride (Joe Vann) in the Illinois Derby. I wasn't known then like I'm known now but I used to work for Todd when I first came to this country.”
Jockey Tim Thornton was pleased with second-place finisher Mister Marti Gras, “He tried. At the three-eighths pole I knew I had a ton of horse. The winner sprinted away turning for home. I was hoping with all the speed in the race that they'd be going a little faster early on. They didn't seem to have (Red Rifle) under pressure early on. He got a breather turning for home. I wasn't able to run him down.”
Emmanuel Esquivel got a big race from 22-1 shot Call me George, “I had a good position all the way. I thought they'd be going a little faster. The one in front kind of walked. I showed my horse the whip, got him clear and he came running.”
Complete Order of finish for Hawthorne Gold Cup: Red Rifle, Mister Marti Gras, Call Me George, Effinex, Ever Rider (Arg), Street Spice, Fordubai, Abraham, Cary Street, Hattaash, Midnight Aria.
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