Centennial Farm's Unified proved that the lengthy layoff wasn't an issue, holding off a late-running Mind Your Biscuits by a neck in Saturday's Grade 3 Gulfstream Park Sprint. A 4-year-old son of Candy Ride, the Jimmy Jerkens trainee covered 6 1/2 furlongs over Gulfstream's fast main track in 1:15.30, having led throughout under jockey Jose Ortiz. Unified is now 4-for-4 in one-turn starts.
“He's a fast horse. He proved that last year,” Jerkens said. “He trained really super the last three weeks. He didn't really like breaking from the 1 [hole]. But when you're fresh like this and come popping out of there you end up being the best speed, at least that time, anyway. I told [Ortiz] if he breaks with the field go on with him because he is not going to like anybody crossing over him and throwing dirt in his face.”
Unified was expected to lay just off the early pace, but Ortiz surprised his rivals by jumping out to the lead immediately out of the gate. He was steady through the first two quarters, setting fractions of :22.37 and :44.71 while 1 1/2 lengths in front of Early Entry. That horse was tracked by Delta Bluesman and Divine Warrior, with late closer Mind Your Biscuits nearly six lengths off the lead in the early going.
Rounding the far turn, Mind Your Biscuits made his move while three-wide, but a well-timed move by Ortiz had Unified in front by three lengths at the head of the lane. Though Unified never changed leads, Ortiz kept the stick in his left hand, asking the colt to drift out just a bit so that he could see Mind Your Biscuits coming at him in the center of the track.
Though Mind Your Biscuits was moving best of the pair late, Unified had the advantage at the wire, holding on to win by a neck. Mind Your Biscuits had to settle for second, with Squadron A finishing up third.
“He was comfortable the whole way and when I asked him to go at the three-sixteenths and he gave me everything he had,” said Ortiz. “I knew somebody was coming on the outside and when I looked and saw who it was I celebrated because Mind Your Biscuits is a tough horse, a nice horse, and he closes hard every time.”
Bred in Kentucky by Blue Devil Racing Stable, Unified was a $325,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Select yearling sale purchase. He was impressive on debut last spring at Gulfstream, leading to dominating his first three races in a row, including a pair of graded stakes. His most recent start had come in the Monmouth Park G3 Pegasus, in which he finished fifth in his first start around two turns, in June of 2016. The Gulfstream Park Sprint is his fourth win from five starts, bringing his career earnings to over $380,000.
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