Phipps Stable's homebred Mr Speaker rallied up the inside to strike the front in midstretch and drew off to a 2 3/4-length victory in Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Dania Beach at Gulfstream Park. A maiden winner in his previous start, the two-year-old colt stamped himself as an exciting prospect for trainer Shug McGaughey with the authoritative score.
Jose Lezcano had the mount.
Mr Speaker was well-reserved near the back of the pack during the early stages as Bon Accord showed the way on the front end, pressured by Yes I'm Lucky through opening splits of :23 3/5, :47 2/5 and 1:11 3/5. He began making headway along the rail on the far turn but was still fourth, about two lengths back, with a quarter-mile remaining.
"Jose rode him really well, getting him into position," McGaughey said. "I thought he would break good; I thought he might be a little closer than he was."
Mr Speaker closed boldly after straightening into the stretch, reaching the lead with a furlong remaining, and dominated late while finishing a mile in 1:36 3/5 on the firm ground.
"As soon as the hole opened up, he shot right through," Lezcano said. "He showed me a lot."
When asked if he had any anxious moments during the running of the Dania Beach, McGaughey quipped, "I'd rather get stopped on the rail than go wide."
Overlooked as the 10-1 sixth choice among nine rivals, Mr Speaker paid $23.40 to win.
Cabo Cat, the 37-1 longest shot in the field, rallied widest of all off the far turn and finished up well for second, a half-length better than the late-running Pleuven in third. Next under the wire came Yes I'm Lucky, Imaginethatmom, Here's Johnny, Hesinfront, Bon Accord and 5-2 favorite Request.
Mr Speaker needed three starts to earn his first win, graduating with a 2 3/4-length victory over maiden special weight rivals at Belmont Park on October 14, and he's raced exclusively on turf so far. But McGaughey will give the soon-to-be sophomore a chance to prove himself on the main track.
"Yes, I will try him on the dirt, maybe even the next time," said the Hall of Fame trainer, who garnered his first Kentucky Derby victory this year with Orb. "He's matured a lot since he left Belmont in November and I hope he continues to go that way."
With Saturday's $60,000 payday, the dark bay has earned $119,880 from a 4-2-0-1 mark.
"I think his future is in front of him," McGaughey said. "He had been training well and he ran well."
A Kentucky-bred son of Pulpit, Mr Speaker is the first stakes winner from the Grade 2-placed mare Salute, a daughter of Unbridled who is out of the great Personal Ensign. Named the 1988 champion older mare, Personal Ensign culminated a perfect career (13 for 13) with a stirring nose win over Winning Colors in the Breeders' Cup Distaff at Churchill Downs.
By Private Account, Personal Ensign has proved exceptional as well in the breeding shed, earning Broodmare of the Year honors in 1996. She is the dam of Grade 1 winners Miner's Mark, Traditionally and My Flag, who in turn produced champion two-year-old filly Storm Flag Flying. This outstanding female family stretches further, with Mr Speaker's third maternal dam, Grecian Banner, earning Broodmare of the Year herself. She produced multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Personal Flag as well as Personal Ensign. Multiple Argentinean champion Dorine is the fourth maternal dam.