Paul Pompa Jr. and J Stables’ Tommy Macho recovered from a stumble on the far turn to split horses turning for home and power down the stretch for a 5 ¾-length victory in the $ 150,000 Hal’s Hope (G3) Saturday at Gulfstream Park.
The 31st running of the one-mile Hal’s Hope for 4-year-olds and up was the last of three graded stakes worth $ 500,000 in purses on the 12-race program, following Flatlined’s upset of the $ 200,000 Fort Lauderdale (G2) and the $ 150,000 Marshua’s River (G3), won by Sandiva.
A 5-year-old son of Macho Uno sent off as the 5-2 favorite in a field of nine, Tommy Macho ($ 7.20) won for the first time since his dominant victory in the Fred Hooper (G3) last February at Gulfstream. He went unraced for eight months after coming up with a chipped knee and returned to finish off the board in a pair of starts to cap an abbreviated 2016 campaign.
“Unfortunately we had to do knee surgery on him after he won here last year so it’s almost been a year to get him back on form. His first couple of starts he seemed a little bit rusty but he’s been training better and it seems like he likes this track a lot,” winning trainer Todd Pletcher said. “Anytime you have a horse come back from a knee injury like that and have to have surgery and come back and regain form, it’s fun and rewarding to see him come back and do well.”
A half-brother to Hall of Fame mare Rachel Alexandra, Dolphus broke sharply from his rail post and was an eager leader through an opening quarter-mile in 23.15 seconds, tracked to his outside by Bird Song with Tommy Macho and Unbridled Outlaw in close pursuit.
Dolphus was still in front after running a half-mile in 45.37 as Bird Song ranged up to launch a bid on the outside and Realm found room along the rail to slip past Tommy Macho into fourth. Tommy Macho bobbled and lost his stride behind Unbridled Outlaw but quickly regained his momentum and put in a strong bid between Bird Song and Realm approaching the stretch.
“It looked like he kind of got cut off a little bit and clipped heels and bobbled there for a second, but right after that he got up and took off,” Pletcher said. “We’ve been pointing for this for a while and it’s nice to see him come over and step up.”
Tommy Macho accelerated and opened up on his rivals after straightening for home, completing the distance in 1:35.20 over a fast main track. Bird Song continued on to finish second, 1 ½ lengths ahead Realm. It was another head back to Ami’s Flatter in fourth.
Hy Riverside, Team Colors, Mr. Jordan, Unbridled Outlaw and Dolphus completed the order of finish. It was the second stakes win of the day and 11th of the Championship Meet for Pletcher, who also saddled Sandiva.
“I think when he felt a little bit in the middle of horses, he felt a little intimidated and he started to back up,” winning jockey Luis Saez said. “That’s why the horse on the rail stole my position and I came out and I almost clipped heels. Then I hit my horse and he started running. He came back and beat them like nothing happened.”
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