Squadron A rallied up the rail for jockey Corey Lanerie to win the Mr. Prospector Stakes
Carolyn Vogel’s Squadron A was ready to run; trainer Dale Romans just didn’t have Sunday’s $ 100,000 Mr. Prospector (G3) in mind for the one-run late closer’s first race of the New Year.
Romans, however, was encouraged by the Gulfstream Park racing office to take a closer look at the six-furlong sprint, and the Eclipse Award-winning trainer liked what he saw.
“I looked at the PPs [past performances] and it was all speed, all speed,” Romans recalled from the Gulfstream Park winner’s circle in the aftermath of stretch-running Squadron A’s 19-1 upset victory in the Mr. Prospector. “There was an allowance race a couple days earlier, so we had already been training for a race. We were ready to run, so we said, ‘We’ll take a shot.’”
Squadron A, the longest-priced starter in the field of six, went on to fire his best shot Sunday.
Jockey Corey Lanerie rated the 7-year-old son of Unbridled’s Song well off a strong early pace set by El Deal and pressed by 6-5 favorite Delta Bluesman along the backstretch and into the far turn. El Deal, ridden by John Velazquez, continued to show the way into the stretch with Candip looming a danger after chasing the pace in third. Just as it appeared that Candip and jockey Tyler Gaffalione were on their way to victory in deep stretch, Squadron A surged through a spacious opening along the rail and drew off to a 2 ½-length win on fresh legs.
“Looking at the form it looked like everybody in the race wanted to be in the front or right there. There was a lot of speed in there. I was hoping to find a good spot and to close into it,” Lanerie said. “I saw everybody warming up really good, so I had a good indication that they would be sending. It worked out perfect. Four of them tried to go to the lead and they fell back into my lap.”
Candip finished second, 1 ¼ lengths ahead of Delta Bluesman, who held third, 1 ¾ lengths ahead of El Deal.
Squadron A, who had won his third race in 30 career starts in a Churchill Downs optional claiming allowance in his most recent start in November, ran six furlongs in 1:10.23.
“They were running along there pretty good and Corey (Lanerie) got through on the fence and saved all the ground,” Romans said. “Things went right. It was meant to be. We started the year off right.”
Romans didn’t have a race in mind for Squadron A’s next start.
“I train so few sprinters, I don’t know the layout. I’m going to have to look around. We’ll have to try a stake somewhere, but that’s never been my M-O, training a sprinter,” he said. “He’s fun, so we’ll see what’s out there for him.”
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