WinStar Farm's Commissioner put away stubborn rival Sr. Quisqueyano March 28 at Gulfstream Park, winning the $150,000 Skip Away by a head after a prolonged battle.
Both runners rebounded from failed efforts at tougher starts, 4-year-old Commissioner coming in off a sixth-place finish in the Feb. 7 Donn Handicap (gr. I) for trainer Todd Pletcher, and 5-year-old Sr. Quisqueyano returning to Florida after shipping to take on Shared Belief in the March 7 Santa Anita Handicap at Santa Anita Park, where he finished ninth for Loooch Racing, Christopher Dunn, and trainer Peter Walder.
Sr. Quisqueyano and jockey Edgard Zayas set the pace in the 1 3/16-mile Skip Away, clicking through opening fractions of :24.38 and :48.97 with 7-5 favorite Commissioner and jockey Javier Castellano tracking about two lengths behind in a group of six.
Commissioner, a son of A.P. Indy, gradually made up the difference through three-quarters in 1:13.81 and looked ready to drive clear with an outside closing move sweeping around the far turn. Once on even terms with the leader, however, he had his work cut out for him, as 10-1 Sr. Quisqueyano fought back determinedly on the rail while a mile went in 1:38.72.
It was a neck-and-neck battle down the length of the stretch, with Commissioner finally edging out the victory by a neck.
Final time was 1:58.60 on the fast main track.
"We knew Sr. Quisqueyano is a tough horse to get by," Pletcher said. "Javier gave him a good ride. This horse has been knocking on the door for a while. We're happy to get a graded stakes with him, so that he could have a spot in the WinStar stallion barn. These A.P. Indys, we know they just get better with age. We'll probably point to the Brooklyn , the only question is whether we run before that or not."
Commissioner, a Kentucky homebred out of the Touch Gold mare Flaming Heart, returned $4.80, $3.20, and $2.40. Sr. Quisqueyano, by Eluisve Quality, paid $6.80 and $3.60. Encryption returned $2.60 far back in third, while East Hall, Ulanbator, and Tryer completed the order of finish.
The Skip Away win improved Commissioner's record to 3-3-2 from 11 starts for earnings of $617,237. Runner-up by a head to Tonalist in the 2014 Belmont Stakes (gr. I), the bay colt earned his first graded score.