HALLANDALE BEACH — With its dates battle with Calder Casino & Race Course settled, Gulfstream Park put its focus squarely on live racing Saturday, hosting a card that featured five sprint races, each with a purse of $75,000.
Billed as the Summer Stakes Spectacular, the sprints were drawn for local horsemen who had been conditioning their horses for Calder's Summit of Speed, which was canceled in May. Calder has since ceased all racing operations with racing to be managed by Gulfstream when it resumes in October.
The most impressive victory of the day was handed in by Mr. Baker, who led gate to wire in the 6 ½-furlong Housebuster Stakes for older horses. Breaking from the inside post, jockey Edgard Zayas sent the son of Imperialism right to the lead as Mr. Baker set the pace for an opening half-mile of 45.18 seconds.
"I knew that if he would get the lead, he is another horse," Zayas said. "When he gets to the lead, his heart just gets bigger and bigger."
Mr. Baker, who was sent away as the favorite, was never threatened. He pulled away to a four-length lead in the stretch and won by 3 ¼ lengths ahead of Grande Shores with Bahamian Squall third. The winning time was 1:15.63.
In the counterpart race for older fillies and mares, favorite Heart Stealer proved convincingly that she has returned to form in winning the Pasaena Stakes. Also ridden by Zayas, the daughter of Speightstown sat comfortably as Best Behavior and Salamera led the eight-horse field to an opening quarter mile in 22.45 seconds.
When the field turned for home, Zayas swung his mount three wide of the pacesetters and Heart Stealer would easily draw off to the victory in the 6 ½-furlong race. The winning time was 1:16.61. Kipling's Joy rallied for place ahead of Salamera.
The win was the filly's first since she took the Inside Information Stakes at Gulfstream in March. Trainer Marty Wolfson said that Heart Stealer developed a foot abscess in preparing for the Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby day.
"She missed a month of training, but she has trained really nice since," Wolfson said.
Wolfson said Heart Stealer, who was cross entered in the Housebuster, will next start at Saratoga.
In the day's other stakes races, Little Alexis dug in in the stretch, holding off challenges from Nesso to her inside and Florida Sun to her outside, to win the Cash Run Stakes. The lightly-raced filly kept her record spotless with the win, covering the 6 ½ furlongs in 1:17.19 and giving jockey Edgar Prado his fourth win of the day. The win was Little Alexis' second in two career starts and her first stakes win.
C. Zee rallied from eighth to win the Cherokee Run Stakes. Casiguapo also rallied for second, a length behind C. Zee and a half length ahead of Victory Nor Defeat. The 3-year-old son of Elusive Bluff covered the 6 ½-furlong distance in 1:16.37.
Madame Giry chased down pacesetter Jo Jo's Comet in the deep stretch to take the Bob Umphrey Turf Sprint. The 5-year-old mare won the 5-furlong race by 2 ½ lengths in 55.80 seconds. Cajun Breeze came in third, 3/4 lengths behind Jo Jo's Comet.
Madame Giry was met in the winner's circle by owner Rick Pitino, head men's basketball coach for the University of Louisville.