02/20/2016 6:18PM

Barbados returns a winner in Pelican Stakes

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Barbados and jockey Victor Lebron win the Pelican Stakes by one length Saturday.

OLDSMAR, Fla. – Barbados put his disappointing effort at the Breeders’ Cup in the rearview mirror Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs, rallying powerfully down the stretch to win the $62,000 Pelican Stakes by a length over Normandy Crossing while making his first start of the year. Fast Flying Rumor, who was seeking his fourth straight win at this meet, finished fourth after tracking the early pace.

Barbados, a 4-year-old Speightstown colt, has won four of 11 career starts and earned $352,220 for Paul and Sue Hanifl’s Suzanne Stables. He won the $100,000 Spectacular Bid Stakes and the Grade 3 Hutcheson Stakes early last year at Gulfstream Park and later ran second to 2015 champion sprinter Runhappy in the Grade 3 Phoenix Stakes at Keeneland on Oct. 2

Trainer Michael Tomlinson said an abscess on the horse’s right back heel popped six days before the Breeders’ Cup Sprint on Oct. 31 and led to a quarter crack. Tomlinson fit Barbados with a bar shoe in the Sprint, but the horse finished an uncharacteristic 12th of 14.

“He was sound, but he just put out no effort with the bar shoe,” Tomlinson said. “He didn’t like it at all. The time we’ve spent since the Breeders’ Cup has been growing his feet out, getting his back feet healthy again. We’re looking for big things from him this year. He’s got an extreme turn of foot when he puts his mind to it.”

That turn of foot was on display Saturday, as Barbados settled into sixth place early, saving ground along the inside, as Fast Flying Rumor and Normandy Crossing battled up front. Fast Flying Rumor was the quickest out of the gate but settled into second after Normandy Crossing surged to the front. Normandy Crossing took the field of seven older horses through a quarter-mile in 22.44 seconds and a half-mile in 45.12.

Fast Flying Rumor briefly stuck his head in front at the top of the lane, but Normandy Crossing continued on determinedly and Barbados, who had advanced three wide on the turn, came charging down the lane to quickly overtake him, stopping the clock for six furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.96. Barbados paid $4.80 as the favorite.

“He scared us several times [in the race], but when he gets free sailing, he always comes like a house on fire, and Victor did an excellent job on him today – tucked in, saved ground, got him out, and gave him somewhere to go,” Tomlinson said.

“I tried to lay second or third, and he kind of put himself a little farther back than I wanted,” Lebron said. “But once I gave him a clear shot, he came through. It was a good feeling.”

Normandy Crossing finished half a length ahead of third-place finisher Street Spice, who was three-quarters of a length ahead of Fast Flying Rumor. They were followed by El Grande Rojo, Big Legacy, Score One, and Tiger Tank.

Fast Flying Rumor, trained by Gerald Bennett, had won two consecutive five-furlong turf sprints, including the $90,000 Turf Dash on Jan. 9, before scoring on dirt in a $50,000 optional claimer Feb. 5. Jockey Ronnie Allen Jr. said the horse got tired in the stretch.  

“He just didn’t show up today,” Allen said. “I had a lot of horse around the turn, but in the lane, I had nothing. I think the heat might have gotten to him.”