WinStar Farm and Twin Creeks Racing Stables' Constitution used his early speed to decisive effect in Saturday's 6TH race at Gulfstream Park, an entry-level allowance brimming with well-regarded Triple Crown nominees. Controlling the pace throughout, the Todd Pletcher pupil pulled 3 1/4 lengths clear to give jockey Javier Castellano his fourth win on the card, and remain perfect in two starts.
Constitution, who recovered from a slow start to take his seven-furlong debut here on January 11, was stretching out to two turns in this 1 1/16-mile test. Several of his most notable rivals had routing experience, including Tonalist, a convincing winner over the track on January 18; Mexikoma, last seen finishing a sneakily-good sixth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile; and Wicked Strong, the third-placer in the Remsen who was exiting a ninth in the January 25 Holy Bull.
Dispatched as the 2-1 favorite in the salty field, Constitution had no difficulty in securing the early lead through an opening quarter in :24 1/5. Big Guy Ian inched closer at the half in :47 3/5, and Tonalist, the 5-2 second choice, advanced into an outside stalking third. Lagging well behind the tepid pace on the speed-conducive track were Wicked Strong and Mexikoma, who was last of the 10 on the backstretch.
Tonalist moved to within a half-length of Constitution through six furlongs in 1:11, but the pacesetter had plenty in reserve. Constitution found another gear turning for home, shook free of his pursuers, and stopped the teletimer in 1:42.
"It actually played out really well," Pletcher said. "I just wanted to make sure we got to the first turn in a good position. I don't know why he broke as poorly as he did first time because he's not a bad gate horse, but he broke cleanly today and Javier was able to get to the position we wanted to be in, and he ran really well from there."
Tonalist, who was shortening up from his nine-furlong maiden romp, kept on doggedly and finished best of the rest by 2 1/4 lengths. A Tapit colt like the winner, he capped the exacta for their hot sire.
Mexikoma motored late to grab third, relegating Wicked Strong to fourth. We're All Set, Big Guy Ian, Solemnly Swear, Sea of Faces, Rhythm Blues and Pletcher's other runner, Matterhorn, concluded the order under the wire.
Constitution paid $6.60 to win, and his bankroll stands at $49,350. He now figures to chase much bigger prizes on the Kentucky Derby trail.
"He's certainly very talented," Pletcher said. "The issue that we have with all of these that are only making their second start and didn't start until this year, historically, I think we're trying to buck a trend, but I think we have a horse that's talented enough to keep moving in the right direction."
Bred by Grapestock and Fox Hill Farms in Kentucky, Constitution brought $400,000 as a yearling at Fasig-Tipton Saratoga. The bay colt is out of Baffled, who placed in the six-furlong Albany at Royal Ascot in 2007. Baffled is a full sister to current Dubai performer Surfer, runner-up in last year's Maktoum Challenge Round 2, and a three-quarter sister to Grade 1-winning juvenile Awesome Humor. Baffled is also a half-sister to Grade 1-winning sprinter Emcee, victorious in the 2012 Forego at Saratoga, and to stakes scorer Spring Party.
Pletcher and Castellano had combined for two wins earlier on the day, both with Triple Crown nominees. Let's Go Stable's Divine Oath rallied from midpack to capture the 1ST race, an entry-level turf allowance, as the 8-5 favorite. The son of Broken Vow extended his mark to two-for-two, having broken his maiden over the same 7 1/2-furlong trip on this course January 18.
Unlike in his debut victory, where he argued a slow pace, Divine Oath encountered much faster fractions here and bided his time as far as 10 lengths back early. He advanced on the far turn and closed with a flourish, just parrying the even later thrust of Big Bazinga by a neck. Divine Oath finished in 1:28 1/5 on the firm course.
A $200,000 Keeneland September yearling, Divine Oath has earned $49,350. The well-bred colt was produced by the winning Forestry mare Rejoicing, from the immediate family of Grade 2 turf hero Interactif, himself a Pletcher trainee by Broken Vow. Divine Oath's second dam is Pennant Champion, a winning full sister to Grade 1 scorers Miner's Mark and Traditionally, as well as multiple Grade 1-placed Our Emblem.
Divine Oath's third dam is unbeaten Hall of Famer and Broodmare of the Year Personal Ensign. Aside from Pennant Champion and her siblings, Personal Ensign is also responsible for multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire My Flag (the dam of champion Storm Flag Flying) and Grade 2-placed Salute (dam of current Dania Beach winner Mr Speaker). Personal Ensign is the ancestress of Grade 2 victor Parading and Grade 3 queen Seeking the Title.
In the 5TH race, Pletcher and Castellano successfully teamed up with Stonestreet Stables' Global Strike, who justified 3-5 favoritism in his maiden. Despite stumbling at the break, the son of Smart Strike and Argentinean Group 1 vixen Misty Lady regrouped adroitly to set the pace through fractions of :23 4/5, :47 2/5 and 1:11 4/5. I'mbetterthangood accosted him in midstretch, and appeared to put his head in front, but Global Strike came again and edged away by 1 1/4 lengths.
"It was gutsy," Pletcher said. "He kind of put himself into a bad spot when he didn't behave very well in the gate. They had a tail on him and I think that caused him to get away like he did. I'm always happy to win, but I think there's more there than we saw today."
By negotiating 1 1/8 miles in 1:52, Global Strike improved his resume to 3-1-1-1, $34,740, all at Gulfstream. The Kentucky-bred, who RNA'd for $70,000 as a yearling at Keeneland September, was third in his career debut on turf December 7. He switched to dirt last time and finished second, beaten four lengths, by Tonalist.
Pletcher and Castellano later won the Grade 2 Davona Dale with Onlyforyou, making it four wins for the trainer and five for the jockey Saturday. Castellano's other scores on his banner six-win day came courtesy of the Chad Brown-trained Normandy Invasion in the 4TH, and the Shug McGaughey-trained Reload in the Grade 3 Canadian Turf.
There was one smashing three-year-old maiden winner representing other connections -- Rontos Racing Stable Corp.'s Social Inclusion, who bolted up by 7 1/2 lengths in his unveiling in the 2ND race. Trained by Manuel Azpurua and piloted by Luis Contreras, the 9-1 chance rattled off splits of :22, :44 3/5 and :56 3/5 en route to a final time of 1:09 1/5 for six furlongs.
Social Inclusion, who is nominated to the Triple Crown, was sold for $60,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. The May 1 foal became the latest budding star from the first crop of Pioneerof the Nile, and his dam is the Grade 2-placed Saint Ballado mare Saint Bernadette.