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Sharp Azteca backs up Navarro's words with Gulfstream win

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. -- Trainer Jorge Navarro is not one to mince words. He told anyone who would listen prior to the $350,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap that his Sharp Azteca has never looked or felt any better, doing everything but guarantee his horse would win the Grade 2 fixture here Saturday.

And sure enough, Navarro was spot on as Sharp Azteca not only won, he dominated the one-mile Gulfstream Park Handicap, drawing off to a thoroughly convincing 4 1/2-length victory over Awesome Slew with Tommy Macho finishing a laboring third as the 8-5 favorite.

Making his first start against older horses, and first since finishing second behind Hold Your Biscuits in the Grade 1 Malibu nearly seven weeks ago at Santa Anita, Sharp Azteca got jostled a bit between horses leaving the gate and then raced a bit rankly while contesting a very legitimate early pace with Blofeld. Sharp Azteca shook loose without urging approaching the quarter pole, jockey Edgard Zayas taking a quick peek back to see where everybody was at that point, and then readily extended his advantage once finally being set down in early stretch.

Awesome Slew, racing without blinkers and making his first start since recently being transferred to trainer Mark Casse's barn, finished with good energy to easily overtake Tommy Macho to be second while never menacing the winner.

Sharp Azteca, a 4-year-old son of Freud owned by Gelfenstein Farm, ran a mile in 1:34.55 and paid $6.

"Coming out of the gate he got squeezed a little bit and I got a little worried," said Navarro. "But it worked out well because I really wanted another horse going with him. He gains focus when with another horse. I always knew I had something special here from the first day I got him. He's had some issues, but we gave him the necessary time, and the blacksmith did an amazing job repairing a quarter-crack."

Navarro said the Godolphin Mile would almost certainly be next up for Sharp Azteca on March 25.

"I'd say I'm 99.9 percent certain we'll be going to Dubai," said Navarro.