Gufo notches fourth stakes win by rallying for Grand Couturier score
by Brian Bohl
Otter Bend Stables’ Gufo capitalized on Joel Rosario’s patient ride, rallying from last-of-six to make a strong move out of the turn and press on for a one-length victory over Tide of the Sea in the $150,000 Grand Couturier on Monday at Belmont Park. It was the inaugural running of the 1 1/2-mile test for 4-year-olds and up over the Widener turf course.
The ultra-consistent Gufo entered his 11th career start having finished in the money in each of his previous races. The Christophe Clement trainee kept that record intact with his sixth career victory and fourth stakes score, benefitting from class relief after running third last out in the Grade 1 Manhattan on Belmont Stakes Day June 5.
Gufo, who broke from post 6, was content to save ground in last as Tide of the Sea led through an opening quarter-mile in 26.09 seconds, the half in 51.03 and three-quarters in 1:16.48 over the turf labeled good.
Rosario urged Gufo up out of the far turn, tipping him out as he picked off rivals one-by-one. Straightened for home, Gufo overtook Shamrocket and Tide of the Sea. In the final sixteenth, Tide of the Sea re-bid from the inside under Luis Saez, but Gufo completed the course in 2:28.73, winning for the first time since the Grade 1 Belmont Derby Invitational in October.
After running second in the Grade 1 Man o’ War when rallying from 14 lengths back in May and earning black type, coming from 17 lengths back, in the Manhattan to start his 2021 campaign, Clement said adding blinkers for the Grand Couturier paid off.
“I think the blinkers helped because he was, without a doubt, a bit closer,” Clement said. “He ran very well. He was closer to the pace. He was giving weight to most of them. With that big sweeping move five-wide, by the time he came against [Sadler’s Joy] we had already cleared him. I was very happy with Gufo.”
Gufo, the 4-5 favorite, returned $3.80 on a $2 win bet. Bred in Kentucky by John Little and Stephen Cainelli, he improved his career earnings to $738,510. The 4-year-old Declaration of War colt is 6-2-3 lifetime.
Jose Ortiz, aboard fourth-place finisher Sadler’s Joy, lodged an objection against Gufo after he appeared to lug out slightly in the stretch. The stewards also put up the inquiry sign but upheld the order of finish.
“I corrected him. He always likes to look around a little bit, and that was it. He was fine after that,” Rosario said about his stretch run. “He was a little more focused with the blinkers. It was a slow pace, but he was a little more up in the race. It seemed like they helped.”
Clement said the Grade 1, $750,000 Resorts World Casino Sword Dancer also going 1 ½ miles on Travers Day, August 28, at Saratoga Race Course is likely next on tap. The Sword Dancer is a “Win and You’re In” qualifier to the Grade 1, $4 million Breeders’ Cup Turf November 6 at Del Mar.
“The Sword Dancer is next. That’s the plan,” Clement said. “He has three starts this year and the plan was always to give him three starts. I was going to run in the United Nations, but the [Monmouth Park] whip rule and the fact that things have been a bit speed favoring at Monmouth, I had to think about it. I figured that the Bowling Green was a touch too close to the Sword Dancer, so I ran him today. The next two or three weeks I’ll start playing with him and breeze him around the first week of August. Then we’ll be ready for the Sword Dancer.”
Tide of the Sea, owned by Three Diamonds Farm and trained by Michael Maker, edged the Todd Pletcher-trained Shamrocket by a neck for second. Following in the order was Sadler’s Joy, Red Knight and Kinenos.
“He broke pretty well and was trying pretty hard,” Saez said. “When we came to the stretch, the six-horse [Gufo] came pretty quick. He tried to fight with him. If the ground was a little bit faster, it would have been better. He never gave up but we were second best.”
Fantasioso, Epic Bromance, Moon Over Miami and Burning Bright scratched.
Live racing resumes Friday at Belmont with a nine-race card. First post is 1 p.m. Eastern.
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