As if posting an early warning to those talented youngsters who will transcend into the coming spring's 3-year-old crop on Wednesday, Winchell Thoroughbreds Gold Hawk, an impressive strapping son of 2003 Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker, displayed his wares in New Orleans late in the afternoon Friday when winning an allowance and $50,000 optional claiming mile and 70 yard-affair at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.
The bay juvenile conditioned by Fair Grounds defending trainer champion Steve Asmussen was patiently ridden by jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr., who tucked him in along the rail and allowed him to settle in ground-saving fashion well off the early pace of 23.91 and 48.08. However, entering the stretch Santana took Gold Hawk off the rail and began circling those in front of him, brushed lightly with one rival despite left-handed whipping, gained the advantage at the sixteenth pole and then drew off late under Santana's hand ride to win by 3 1/2-lengths in a final time of 1:43.96.
“That horse,” recalled Santana in understated tones a day later, “is a very good horse. He ran huge for me. I took him back early to school him a little bit, teach him to rate and allow him to get some dirt in his face and he handled all that very well.
“But the thing that he really showed me was that he wants to go a lot longer,” Santana said. “That race (Friday) was only a mile and 70 yards. He was just drawing off on his own at the end. I was not using the whip at all. He was just reaching out in the late stages without me asking him for anything.”
Gold Hawk, who is out of Carl Pollard's 2000 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies champion Caressing, made his first start at Churchill Downs Nov. 30 and broke his maiden that day with a 2 1/4-length score.
One possible caveat concerning Gold Hawk's future at Fair Grounds in the series that leads up to the 100th renewal of the $1 million Louisiana Derby March 29 is that Winchell's Asmussen-trained Tapiture, winner of the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs is also in residence at Fair Grounds. Although no plans concerning the pair's individual futures have been announced, it would make sense that one of them may be headed elsewhere to keep them apart as long as possible.
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