Field of Courage, the longest shot on the board at 40-1, stalked the pace from the outside and came on for a 1 3/4 length victory under rider Luis Contreras in Sunday’s Grade 2, $282,000 Nearctic Stakes over six furlongs on a “soft” turf course.
“I just broke and I let my horse be really close,” said Contreras, who was recording his 13th stakes win of the meeting. “I don’t want to be too far back on this kind of track. So, everything worked out very well for us and I’m very happy.”
Dowse’s Beach, breaking from the inside as the 2.70-1 third choice, was sent for the lead but was outfooted by Conquest Tsunami, who led by a half-length through an opening quarter of :22.88 with Yorkton stalking from the outside and third and 2.55-1 second choice Cotai Glory fourth within easy striking range.
Field of Courage was rallying steadily as his Mark Casse-trained stablemate, Conquest Tsunami, maintained a head lead at the half in :45.93.
Although Contreras dropped his whip late in the race, Field of Courage plugged on doggedly to lead by 1 1/2 lengths at the furlong pole before finishing in 1:12.07.
“He opened up really nice and he just kept it going until the wire,” said Contreras.
Cotai Glory, invading from England, was unable to match the winner’s rally while in tight briefly in midstretch but his jockey, Oisin Murphy, had no complaints.
“Delighted with the run,” said Murphy. “I was able to sit in behind the leaders, one off the rail from (Post) 7. The ground is very testing and we rode a great race. Lovely prize money and glad to be a part of it.”
White Flag, the 1.85-1 favourite while invading from New York, trailed the field through the opening half but was making up ground late to finish just 1 1/4 lengths shy of the runner-up.
Ikerrin Road, who had bid into the lane, flattened out in the final furlong to wind up fourth, 1 3/4 lengths behind White Flag.
Conquest Tsunami, Dowse’s Beach, Yorkton and Circle of Friends rounded out the order of finish.
Supplemented to Nearctic race at a cost of $5,000, Field of Courage was recording his first career stakes win and first win in three turf attempts for Quintessential Racing Florida LLC. He was the meet-leading 15th stakes winner for the Casse outfit.
“He was [awesome],” said assistant trainer Kathryn Sullivan. “Luis gave him a great ride for sure. He was doing very well, but it was a very big step up in company for him and maybe the conditions today worked out well for him because he certainly looked pretty happy out there.”
Field of Courage paid $82.70, $28 and $10.70. He combined with Cotai Glory ($5.70, $3.60) for an 8-7 exacta worth $462.50. A $1 trifecta of 8-7-2 (White Flag, $2.50) paid $667.70 and a $1 superfecta of 8-7-2-4 (Ikerrin Road) returned $4,385.10.