HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - In what turned out to be a virtual rematch of the Grade 3 Hal's Hope here four weeks earlier, Mshawish ran down and then outfinished a game Valid to the wire to register a two-length triumph in Saturday's $500,000 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park. The victory put Mshawish in a pretty exclusive club, giving him Grade 1 victories on both dirt and turf.
Under a perfectly judged ride by John Velazquez, Mshawish rated within easy striking distance of the early pacesetter Financial Modeling, who was stalked by Valid through very reasonable early splits of 24.04 seconds, 49.12, and 1:13.63 for the opening six furlongs. Velazquez tipped Mshawish out three wide commencing his bid approaching the stretch, drew even with Valid near midstretch, and gradually edged well clear. Valid overtook Financial Modeling near the quarter pole, was bumped a couple of times by that rival while trying to fend off the oncoming Mshawish upon settling into the stretch, ultimately proving no match while digging down to hold off Mexikoma by a half-length to finish second.
Keen Ice, the 2-1 favorite, raced wide and was never a serious factor, finishing sixth in a field of eight older horses.
Mshawish, who won the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Handicap on Donn Day one year ago, completed 1-1/8 miles over a fast track in 1:47.89 and returned $11.20. A 6-year-old son of Medaglia d'Oro, Mshawish is trained by Todd Pletcher for Al Shaqab Racing.
"I was pretty happy. I loved the way he finished up at a mile and one eighth," said Pletcher when asked for his first thoughts immediately after the Donn. "That was one thing we were looking to prove, that he would stay a mile and one eighth on the dirt and I thought he ran the best race of his career, actually, and he's run some pretty good ones before that. He got a great trip, Johnny gave him a great ride, and he delivered a great performance."
Pletcher, who also sent out Itsaknockout and Madefromlucky to finish fourth and eighth in the Donn, said he was trying to keep an eye on all three of his horses as darkness settled in over the track, before finally focusing in on Mshawish from the top of the stretch to the wire.
"Turning for home, he kind of fanned out and Valid was there, and we know how tough he is to get by," said Pletcher. "But today, he was able to built a little momentum and ease away from him the last part."
Pletcher said he would talk to the owner and his advisors before making a decision on Mshawish's next start, but indicated the $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 26 is the most likely option. Mshawish finished third in the rich Dubai Turf on the 2015 Dubai World Cup undercard.
Trainer Marcus Vitali was pleased with Valid's performance in defeat.
"He ran great, couldn't ask for any better. He's a fighter," said Vitali. "He got bumped a little bit, this is the way we figured it, him [Mshawish] or me, and that's the way it worked out. I'm excited."