One of the highlights on the Florida racing calendar is the $500,000 Donn Handicap (G1), featuring the top older horses in the east going 1 1/8 miles on the main track. In recent years this has become a popular prep race for the $6 million Dubai World Cup which will be held this year on March 31. This year's Donn saw the return of 2006 Horse of the Year Invasor, making his first start after his win in the Breeders' Cup Classic and sent off as the prohibitive 2-5 favorite in a field of eight. Invasor sat near the back of the field early saving ground along the rail around both turns while chasing the fast pace of 37-1 Barcola. On the far turn, Invasor was boxed in badly on the inside with the tiring pacesetters backing up into him. Jockey Fernando Jara had to check hard to avoid a collision, clipping heels with Barcola, then somehow got Invasor back into gear, as the champion powered through a gap that opened on the rail and caught 6-1 Chatain at the 1/16 pole and drew away to win by 2 lengths over late-running 16-1 Hesanoldsalt in 1:48.43. 15-1 A.P. Arrow was third, while 4-1 second choice Magna Graduate stalked the pace but showed nothing late, finishing last.
Winning trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said, "I thought he was stopped (checked at quarter pole). He showed what a superior horse he is. He finds a way to win every time. I was worried when Fernando (Jara) came up the inside, because when you're 1-to-5, everybody knows who you are, and nobody wants to open the door for you. It was scary, but he showed why he was Horse of the Year. I thought he would be off the pace today because on this speed-favoring track, the outside horses would gun for the front. We'll leave for Dubai on March 15. It's going to be exciting. This horse wants 1 1/4, and will be at equal weights with Discreet Cat this year." Jockey Fernando Jara added, "He has a really big heart. I wasn't worried (about being in tight). The horse found his own space. I had a lot of horse to go on and a lot of horse left at the end."
There were five other graded stakes on the Donn undercard. Two of them have Triple Crown implications. The $150,000 Holy Bull Stakes (G3) saw eight 3-year-olds go 1 mile on the main track. 7-10 favorite Nobiz Like Shobiz continued his winning ways, gunning to the front early and battling with 2-1 second choice Scat Daddy most of he way. Through the stretch, Scat Daddy tired as Nobiz Like Shobiz drew away to a 1 1/2 length win over late-running 27-1 Drums of Thunder in 1:35.47. Scat Daddy was another 1 1/4 lengths back in third. Winning trainer Barclay Tagg said, "It was exactly what I wanted. I wanted to get a good race in him without undue stress to win the race. We'll see how he comes out of this race. Maybe the Fountain of Youth (Mar. 3) will be next." Jockey Cornelio Velasquez added, "He won easily today moving on the lead. Every time they came to him, he pulled away. At the 3/8 pole I just let him run on."
The other Triple Crown prep on the card was the $150,000 Swale Stakes (G2) at 6 1/2 furlongs. 5-2 second choice Adore the Gold set the pace under pressure from 4-1 third choice Forefathers on the inside, and the pair raced 1-2 the whole way, with Adore the Gold holding off Forefathers by 3/4 length at the line in 1:15.86. 3-2 favorite Cowtown Cat chased the pace and finished 6 1/4 lengths behind Forefathers at the finish. Winning trainer Mike Gorham said, "He's already gone two turns. He's never seen a crowd this big, and that might be why he was he was a little intimidated. Cornelio got after him and straightened him out. We wanted to get out there and get a position, but he was so quick, he didn't want to take him back. So he let him hold his spot." Jockey Cornelio Velasquez, who swept both 3-year-old races on the card, added, "The trip was good. The plan was to stay in behind, but he (Adore the Gold) wanted the lead today. He was going easily. I had a lot of horse at the 1/8 pole. Forefathers pressured him at the head of the lane. I still had a lot of horse."
There were two graded stakes races contested over the firm turf course at Gulfstream. Older fillies and mares went in the $100,000 Suwannee River Handicap (G3) at 1 1/8 miles on the turf. 11-10 favorite Naissance Royale saved ground early while racing near the rear of the field, and then closed with a rush on the outside down the stretch to just get up by a neck over 7-2 second choice J'ray in 1:46.58. It was another 2 1/2 lengths back to 20-1 Potra Clasica in third. Winning trainer Christophe Clement said, "She's been very consistent. I was pretty confident. When they are special they can overcome bad trips and any other problems that come their way. She's due to be bred. We'll see." Jockey Edgar Prado added, "She's a beautiful filly. You saw what she can do today. I think the post position (1) helped her a lot. Last time she drew the outside and was fanned wide. She can run down any horse in the stretch. It was a perfect trip today.
In the $100,000 Canadian Turf Handicap (G3) for older horses, 16-1 longshot Giant Wrecker opened a clear lead down the backstretch and was all-out through the stretch to hold off late-running 7-2 second choice Host in the final strides to prevail by a head in 1:39.70 for the 1 1/16 mile feature. 4-1 third choice Jambalaya was third, while 4-5 favorite and 2006 champion turf male Miesque's Approval failed to threaten, finishing fifth. Winning trainer Mark Hennig said, "He's been a little slow developing, but he's been coming around. I told Javier that if he does break sharp, don't try to fight him. We'll look at our options." Jockey Javier Castellano added, "He had a beautiful trip. There wasn't too much speed in the race and he settled down and got comfortable down the backside. He was a little rank the first part and we had wanted to cover him up, but with the lack of other speed, I just let him go ahead and he held on until the end.
The first stakes event on Saturday afternoon was the $100,000 Deputy Minister Handicap (G3) for older horses sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs on the main track. 2-1 second choice Keyed Entry led the field down the backstretch, and had plenty left for the stretch drive as he pulled away to a convincing 6 length win over 3-2 favorite Sir Greeley in 1:15.72. It was another 1 3/4 lengths back to 18-1 longest shot Nar in third. Winning owner Jack Wolf of Starlight Stable said, "He'd been on the farm with Barry (Berkelhammer, bloodstock agent and advisor) and he got this horse to looking the way he did today. By the time he got back to training, he was just doing super and able to do what we saw today. I would think that as long as we don't screw it up, this horse has a future as a very good sprinter." Jockey John Velazquez added, "He had a really good trip. All I wanted to do was get him out in the clear and keep him going. He did it pretty easily."
PHOTO: Invasor winner of the Donn Handicap
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<a href="http://www.equestrianmag.com/article/horse-racing-donn-handicap-g1-2-07.html">2007 Donn Handicap Day Results</a> ~ EquestrianMag.com