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February 19, 2012
A season-high live crowd and a record on-track handle put the exclamation points on the completion of the third season of live American Quarter Horse racing at historic Hialeah Park on Sunday.
An estimated 6,000 ebullient fans enjoyed closing day festivities under absolutely gorgeous South Florida weather conditions. The attendance figure was easily the best of the season and by some accounts the biggest live crowd since racing returned to this historical setting in 2009-2010. Bettors wagered $122,911, an all-time Quarter Horse high at Hialeah Park, as part of a total mutuel handle of $264,196.
On track, the fans saw Logans Dash, Skyline Lover, Ima Gator Fan and Jess A Runner emerge with stakes victories on the final day of the 32-day season.
Logans Dash (Toast To Dash-Logans Game), trained by Manuel Mata and ridden by Jeremy Garcia for owner Annibal Hernandez, bested Count The Menace by a neck in the $22,750 Three Cherries Stakes at 300 yards. The 3-year-old filly, who was bred by Triple M Farms LLC, recorded her third consecutive stakes victory of the meet. The Louisiana-bred also captured the Biscayne Stakes and Miami-Dade County Stakes.
Skyline Lover (Feature Mr Jess-Loves That Gold), known affectionately as “Hialeah’s Horse,” never broke a sweat under Shanley Jackson in winning the 1,000-yard, $27,000 Sailfish Stakes by four lengths as the 3-10 favorite over Checotah Dale. Scoring for the third time in as many tries at the unusual distance, Skyline Lover, trained by Matt Frazier, earned $16,585 for owner Dan Frazier and drove his lifetime winnings to just over $290,000. Bred in the Lone Star State by James G. Burgess, M.D., the 6-year-old gelding has crossed the wire first in all eight of his career starts at Hialeah with the only blemish being the Moonstone Stakes in January when he was disqualified from first and placed eighth for interference.
In the $193,150 South Florida Quarter Horse Derby, Ima Gator Fan (City Place [TB]-Ima Special Rose) took command late and went on to score a three-quarter length victory over race favorite TF First Pick. The winner, a 3-year-old filly bred in Florida by her owner J.L. Gladwell, was trained by Grover Wheeler Jr. and ridden to victory by Troy Crissup. She covered 440 yards in :21.440 and earned $81,123 for the victory. The filly broke her maiden at Canterbury Park in Minnesota last August and then made one start at Prairie Meadows in Iowa before moving on to Hialeah.
The $75,000 Hialeah Invitational Championship, featuring the first-ever 12-horse Quarter Horse field at Hialeah Park, went to the much-traveled and highly accomplished Jess A Runner (Jess Louisiana Blue-Katiebug Driver) by a neck over defending champion Chi Ter. Trained by Kenny Laymon and ridden by Oscar Delgado for JK Running Horses LLC, Jess A Runner ran 440 yards in :21.354 and earned $45,000 for the win. The 6-year-old gelding was bred in Kansas by Paul Newmaster and now has five career stakes wins.
As far as seasonal honors were concerned, jockey Alex Baldillez Jr. was a runaway winner of the jockey title. He registered 43 victories to 25 for runner-up and defending champion Oscar Delgado. Charlton Hunt was winless on closing day, but took top trainer honors, 25 to 20, over Ralph Muniz. Rancho Los Dos Potrillos LLC topped the owner standings with 14 wins, four better than Mary Passmore and Gene Cox. Skyline Lover was voted Horse of the Meet off the strength of four official wins in five starts this season.
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