After hardly distinguishing himself in the first 17 starts of his career, Alley Oop Oop appeared to have finally gotten his footing with the switch to turf racing.
Although the 5-year-old son of Monsieur Cat had proven himself to be a bona fide turfer in his last 10 starts, doubts started to slip into trainer Stanley Gold’s mind shortly after the start of the $108,000 Armed Forces Stakes on Gulfstream Park’s grass course.
“At first, I was real concerned. It looked like he wasn’t handling the turf at all,” Gold said. “He got shuffled back on the first turn and I was worried he wasn’t going to get a clear path. (Jockey) Fernando (Jara) got himself in a position, but it looked like he (Alley Oop Oop) was reluctant to go.”
Making his first start on grass at Gulfstream, Alley Oop Oop finally got accustomed to the footing of the new course just in time to launch a stretch bid to catch even-money favorite Bad Debt at the finish line of the 1 1/16-mile stakes for Florida-bred horses.
“He started to grab the track and, at the three-eighths pole, he was saying, ‘Let’s go,’” Gold said. “He got his on head straight and by the quarter pole he was rolling.”
The Jacks or Better Farm’s homebred, who was sent to post as the 9-5 second choice, prevailed over Bad Debt by a head to win his fifth of 11 races on turf.
“It was a good trip. Around the first turn I was a little concerned because he seemed a little lazy. He wasn’t the usual horse for me at the start, he really wasn’t there for me,” Jara said. “It took a little longer for him to get going, but in the final sixteenth he found his stride and he was there. I knew I had won.”
Bad Debt, a remarkably productive gelding who has finished first, second or third in 34 or 44 lifetime starts, broke from the outside post in the field of eight. Rated off the pace set by Balino while racing wide under jockey Manoel Cruz, Bad Debt made a move for the lead coming off the turn into the homestretch and appeared on his way to his 14th career win in mid-stretch. Alley Oop Oop, though, had found his stride and gradually wore down the favorite.
“He’s always got to give you these heart-attack races,” Gold said. “It’s always a nose, a head, He doesn’t know how to win easy or get beat easy.”
Alley Oop Oop, who winner has been a regular participant in photo finishes, ran 1 1/16 miles on turf in 1:41.45 to earn $61,000. Bad Debt finished 1 ½ lengths ahead of tiring pacesetter Balino and jockey Orlando Bocachica.
Kenny Martin photo