Barbadian trainer Saffie Joseph Jr warmed up for a big upcoming weekend when he sent out 5-1 choice Tournesol to win Sunday’s feature US$60 000 Portofino Bay Stakes at Gulfstream Park.
Ridden by Edgard Zayas, the three-year-old chestnut filly produced a turn of pace late in the stretch to catch 2-1 bet Yesterdayoncemore on the wire, to win by a neck in one minute, 43.30 seconds.
The victory was the perfect precursor for the 33-year-old Joseph who is preparing to turn out Ny Traffic in next Saturday’s $1 million Grade I Haskell Stakes at Monmouth Park in New Jersey, as well as saddling Tonalist’s Shape in the $350 000 Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga in New York, also on Saturday.
“At the top of the stretch, when Yesterdayoncemore opened up, I said, ‘we’re going to finish a good second,’” Joseph said afterwards.
“I told Edgard that the distance was really going to help her. She really has a turn of foot, but I didn’t think she was going to get her. She really had to kick in and she did.”
Going a mile and sixteenth for three-year-old fillies, Tournesol raced sixth in the seven-horse field as 6-1 bet Mijet opened up a three-length lead through the quarter run in 24.23 seconds, with Freret and Blue Mistress duelling for second.
At the half-mile, Mijet’s lead had closed to a length while Tournesol dropped to last but remained not more than five lengths off the pace-setter, with the field starting to bunch.
Blue Mistress left the final turn with the lead but Yesterdayoncemore blew by on the outside to pick up the running and open up a two-length advantage in the stretch.
However, Zayas brought Tournesol with a thundering run down the middle of the track to head Yesterdayoncemore in the final sixteenth.
Joseph is the current leader at Gulfstream with 33 wins, four clear of Todd Pletcher with Antonio Sano one back in third on 28.