Lane’s End Racing’s Mask ($4.80) identified himself as a serious Triple Crown candidate Saturday at Gulfstream Park, registering a dominating 6 ¼-length victory in the $100,000 Mucho Macho Man under a hand ride from Javier Castellano.
The Chad Brown-trained colt remained undefeated in two career starts with his front-running victory in the one-turn mile kickoff of Gulfstream’s stakes series for 3-year-olds and the last of five stakes on Saturday’s program.
“Both starts weren’t a surprise, but we were impressed again. The horse has always trained like he was something special. Again, we learned some things about him. He broke much better in his second start and was able to just go to the lead. He had no problem with a mile,” Brown said. “The way he ran, it looks like he’ll have no problem with two turns either. Very professional. Second start, he handled himself perfect in the paddock and has a wonderful mind on him. Exciting horse.”
Sent to post as the 7-5 favorite in a field of seven 3-year-olds, Mask went straight to the lead after breaking alertly from the starting gate and set an unpressured paced along the backstretch, setting fractions of 24.43 (seconds) and 48.13 for the first half mile. The son of Tapit continued to show the way around the turn and into the stretch before going on to cross the finish line under wraps. Bal Harbour saved ground into the stretch to finish second under John Velazquez, three lengths ahead of Dak Attack, who flattened out through the stretch after making a bid on the last turn under Robby Albarado.
Mask, who was purchased for $685,999 at the 2016 Keeneland September sale, ran the mile in 1:37.65 after covering six furlongs in 1:12.92 and seven-furlongs in 1:25.27.
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2018 Mucho Macho Man Replay
“I didn’t expect my horse to run on the lead, I thought he’d run from behind, but the way he ran today was phenomenal. It was a tremendous effort the way he did it. He broke so sharp out of the gate. He’s the kind of horse that is so good mentally and a very mature horse,” Castellano said. “I remember the first time riding him he broke a little slow out of the gate, but now he knows what’s going on in the gate and will have a lot of potential. The most important thing is he’s got such a good mind and is mature with everything he does. “
Mask debuted Oct. 20 at Belmont Park, scoring a three-length off-the-pace victory at 6 ½ furlongs. Saturday, the Kentucky-bred colt was ready to run right from the start of the 7th running of the Mucho Macho Man,
“I was surprised [to see him on the lead] but not disappointed. I was hoping he’d break well and when I saw that first fraction I knew he’d be pretty tough to beat at that point because he’s been training with really good horses in the morning and he’s been galloping out particularly strong in his works,” Brown said. “The only thing left to see midway through the race was, was the layoff going to hit him the last eighth or not and it didn’t. He just widened.”
Mask gives Brown two exciting Triple Crown prospects, joining Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) winner and Eclipse Award finalist Good Magic.
Gulfstream’s series for 3-year-olds continues with the $350,000 Holy Bull (G2) Feb. 3, followed by the $400,000 Fountain of Youth (G2) March 3, and the $1 million Xpressbet.com Florida Derby (G1) April 1.
“No plans yet. I really wanted to just see what happened today, what he got out of this race, how he handled the mile and everything. So far I couldn’t be more pleased with everything. We’ll see how he comes out of the race and go from there,” Brown said. “I do want to try the horse two turns in his next start and find out where we stand as far as putting him on the Derby trail, but right now he looks like he’s firmly on that path.”
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