HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. -- Ancient Rome made his stakes debut a winning one, surging from between horses in the final 40 yards under jockey Joe Rocco Jr. to outfinish For Oby by a nose to capture the $100,000 Spectacular Bid Stakes, the feature race on Saturday's wildly successful opening-day program at Gulfstream Park.
Ancient Rome, a son of Roman Ruler, was making just his third start in the six- furlong Spectacular Bid. Well placed by Rocco after breaking a step slow, Ancient Rome was briefly out moved by For Oby in late stretch before reasserting himself gamely nearing the wire to wrest the narrow victory.
For Oby, winner of Calder's Jack Price Juvenile in his previous start, circled wide turning for home and appeared to gain a brief advantage in deep stretch before succumbing to the winner in the final stride. Town Prize broke alertly to control the pace through midstretch and weakened.
Vexor, winner of the Grade 2 Nashua earlier this year, tired badly after flashing only brief speed. The Spectacular Bid, which was carded for 2-year-olds for the first time in its 29-year history, scratched down from eight to six starters with the defections of morning-line favorite Luke of York and Blings Express earlier in the day.
Ancient Rome is trained by Anthony Dutrow for owner Michael Dubb. He ran six furlongs in 1:08.95 over a lightning-fast track and paid $4.40. The win was the second on the card for Rocco.
"He was game," said Dutrow. "Talking to Joe after the race, he said he thought it was a good thing that other horse [For Oby] came outside and gave our horse some more interest. He was concerned he might not have picked it up and gone on if he hadn't. I really think he was in need of that kind of seasoning."
Dutrow, who won the 2010 Spectacular Bid with A Little Warm, said he will look to stretch out Ancient Rome in his next start.
"I think we'll go a little further with him next time," said Dutrow. "One of his sire Roman Ruler's gets won the Belmont," referring to this year's Belmont Stakes winner Ruler On Ice. "We owe it to this horse and ourselves to see if he'll go a little more ground."