GULFSTREAM PARK SPRINT STAKES | PURSE: $100,000 | 4-YEAR-OLDS & UP | GRADE 3 | 7FURLONGS
Newtown Anner Stud and Joseph Bulger's Falling Sky hadn't visited the winner's circle in 12 months, but seems to have found new life in the New Year as he led all the way home in Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Gulfstream Park Sprint under jockey Luis Saez.
The bay four-year-old found company in the form of Singanothersong as the duo sprinted to the front when the gates opened. They battled it out through the opening :22 ⅗ quarter and proceeded to set a half-mile split in :44 ⅕ while tracked by Reveron, Silver Menace, Catron and Fort Loudon just in behind.
Nobody every really came to challenge as Falling Sky and Singanothersong entered the turn, and it soon became clear who was going to win the battle between those two as Falling Sky drew off in the lane.
Narvaez, the 139-1 second longest shot on the board, separated himself from the others in the stretch but proved no match for Falling Sky, who finished 5 ½ lengths in front while completing seven furlongs on the fast main track in 1:20.65, just 0.20 off the track record.
Falling Sky paid $31.60 for the win as the 14-1 sixth pick in the 11-horse field, and keyed lucrative $2 exotic payouts of $1,627.60 (exacta), $10,155.20 trifecta and $64,662.80 (5-3-6-9 superfecta).
"My horse ran really well; he felt very comfortable. I knew I had a lot of horse left when I asked him in the stretch," Saez said. "He felt good the whole way. Last time, I think he just needed the race, so I knew he would be tough today."
Narvaez's odds attributed to those returns as he finished a half-length in front of third-placer Brujo de Olleros, who in turn had a head up on near 5-2 favorite Catron. Singanothersong came next and was followed under the wire by Reveron, Laugh Track, Silver Menace, Jackson Bend, Fort Loudon and Purple Egg.
Falling Sky was trained in his initial three starts by Antonio Sano, taking his maiden debut and an optional claimer with a fourth-placing in the 2012 Inaugural Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs sandwiched in between. The Lion Heart colt returned in 2013 under the care of John Terranova, who immediately saddled his pupil to a front-running victory in the Sam F. Davis last February.
The best Falling Sky could muster in his remaining three trips to the track for Terranova was a well-beaten third in the Tampa Bay Derby, and he was put on the shelf following a fourth in the Arkansas Derby and a last of 19 in the Kentucky Derby. Falling Sky made his return, and concluded his sophomore campaign, in the City of Laurel Stakes on November 9 for new conditioner George Weaver. He stumbled at the start of that seven-furlong contest and was never really into the race before giving way to finish ninth.
Reappearing two months later for his seasonal bow, Falling Sky showed a return to form when just missing by a half-length in a Gulfstream Park optional claimer on January 11. The winner that day was multiple Grade 3 hero Revolutionary, who was returning from a six-month layoff and finished up a mile in 1:35 to be quicker than the Hal's Hope run on the same day.
"His last race was very good here. We didn't want to run a mile, but that's the only race they had and we hooked Revolutionary. We thought cutting back to seven-eighths today that he would run a big race," Weaver said. "That race was actually run faster than the Hal's Hope later in the day.
"We thought in that race, internally, that he ran a very, very good seven furlongs. He got tired the last 100 yards or so. We're like, 'OK, we went a mile. We'll cut back to seven furlongs and he'll fly.' I didn't know he would fly that high, but he did.
"We knew he would be on the engine. I was hoping to cut out a :45-and-change half and that would give us the best chance to win. When he went :44-and-change, I was a little bit concerned, but by the three-sixteenths he was starting to draw off and he had plenty left."
Weaver indicated that Falling Sky would remain sprinting in the future with a season-ending goal of the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Santa Anita in November.
"I think to go that fast over this track, it was such a performance, it lets us think we can do some big things this year if we can keep him at that level," Weaver declared. "This horse has always trained good since I've had him. He's an easy horse to train and he's athletic and quick and an impressive horse to watch breeze."
Falling Sky improved his record to 4-1-1 from 10 starts on Saturday and has banked $320,470 in lifetime earnings.
Bred in Pennsylvania by Copper Penny Stables, Falling Sky sold for $16,000 as a Keeneland November weanling but brought $425,000 at the OBS Winter Mixed Sale last year. He is out of the dual stakes-placed Sea Hero mare Sea Dragoness, who is a half-sister to multiple stakes queen All Giving and stakes victor War Native.
Farther back in this female family one can find 1947 Preakness hero Faultless and 1938 Kentucky Derby star Lawrin as well as champions Idun and Unerring.