01/26/2016 6:16PM

Casse uses home-track edge in OBS Championship

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OCALA, Fla. – As an Ocala resident who regularly trains horses at the Ocala Training Center, trainer Mark Casse had something of a home-track advantage at the 27th annual OBS Day of Champions on Tuesday, or at least it appeared that way as his Whatawonderflworld overcame a wide trip to score by one length over Two Step Time in the $100,000 males’ division of the OBS Championship.

The Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. puts on an annual day of racing at the OTC, offering four stakes races for 3-year-olds who have passed through the auction ring here. As usual, the card drew several thousand local residents for the only day of live racing in Marion County, the heart of Florida horse country. Fans packed the OTC’s small grandstand and lined the outer rail for the length of the stretch, either standing or sitting in lawn chairs. 

Parimutuel wagering was only permitted on the first two races of the five-race card due to the terms of the OTC’s Quarter Horse racing permit. The races were run on the OTC’s synthetic Safetrack surface.

Whatawonderflworld, a gelding by Tiz Wonderful, was ridden by Jose Lezcano for Casse and owner Gary Barber. The horse sold for $50,000 last June at OBS.  

All three of Whatawonderflworld’s prior starts had come on turf against fellow New York-breds last fall, including wins in a $60,000 maiden special weight race at Belmont Park in October and a first-level optional $75,000 claimer at Aqueduct in November. Whatawonderflworld has earned $136,200 through four starts.

On Tuesday, he raced four wide early as the eventual third-place finisher, Golden Ray, took the field of 12 through a quarter-mile in 23.40 seconds, a half-mile in 47.40, and six furlongs in 1:12.00. Whatawonderflworld stalked three wide around the final turn and surged to the front down the lane, finishing the 1 1/16-mile race in 1:45.00.

“I was really concerned about how wide he was,” Casse said. “This was not an easy race, but this horse is a pretty good horse. Maybe I’ve underestimated him. Maybe he’s better than I thought. We got hung out wide, and he ran a big race because he was always under pressure.”

Vieja Luna all the way

Vieja Luna rushed to the lead from the No. 1 post and never looked back, scoring by 2 1/2 lengths in the $100,000 fillies’ division of the OBS Championship.

Vieja Luna, racing in blinkers for the first time, was ridden by Emisael Jaramillo for trainer Marcos Fernandez and owner Juan Francisco Landaeta. The Kentucky-bred Street Hero filly sold for only $23,000 here last April and has won two of eight starts for $122,098. She’s run in five stakes races, including a distant fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Chandelier Stakes behind Songbird, the champion 2-year-old filly of 2015, when trained by Gustavo Amaya.

“We got this filly in December from another trainer, and we had been working very hard with her for this race,” Fernandez said. “I told the jockey to send her to the front, and he did a good job.”

Vieja Luna carved out fractions of 23.40 seconds, 47.20, and 1:11.80 to reach the top of the stretch with a two-length lead, and the 10 fillies in pursuit failed to make up any ground in the stretch, with Silver Magnolia finishing second, four lengths ahead of Will Be Magical. The final time for 1 1/16 miles was 1:45.

“This track is very fast, and I saw that the horses who were in front could hold them off,” Jaramillo said, speaking through Fernandez as his interpreter.

Danbury ends skid

In the first stakes race of the day, Danbury ($46) snapped a six-racing losing streak, powering home on top by 1 1/2 lengths under Eddie Castro to win the $50,000 males’ division of the OBS Sprint. Danbury, a son of Kantharos, is trained by Bill Kaplan for owner Michael G. Bernard. The colt was a $25,000 purchase at OBS last April.

Danbury raced in second early as Dioscuri led the field through a quarter-mile in 22.60 seconds and a half-mile in 45.20. He took over at the top of the lane and drew clear, finishing the six-furlong race in 1:10.40.

“When I came to the stretch, I knew I had a lot of horse, and when I hit him, he responded,” Castro said.  “He gave me a real nice kick at the end.”

Danbury has been racing exclusively in stakes since winning his career debut in a maiden special weight race at Gulfstream Park last July. Prior to Tuesday, his best finish in a stakes race was a fourth in the $100,000 Juvenile Sprint for Florida-breds at Gulfstream Park West in November. On Jan. 2, he was fifth in the Grade 3 Hutcheson at Gulfstream.

Danbury has won two of eight starts for $86,203.

Lazarus Project was second in the field of 13, with Drama Club third and Our Nation fourth. Pinstripe, the 4-5 favorite for jockey Javier Castellano and trainer Todd Pletcher after winning his only prior start impressively, finished sixth.

Social Butterfly wins stakes debut

Social Butterfly returned from a layoff of almost four months to win the $50,000 fillies’ division of the OBS Sprint by half a length over the pacesetting Kandoo.

Social Butterfly was ridden by Scott Spieth for trainer Shannon Ritter and owner WinStar Farm. The Kentucky-bred daughter of Hold Me Back was a $140,000 purchase at OBS last April. She finished third in her career debut at Canterbury Park on Sept. 11 before winning a $34,500 maiden special weight sprint at Delaware Park on Sept. 30. She’s earned $53,480.

“After she broke her maiden at Delaware, we just gave her a little break and let her grow up a little bit,” Ritter said. “She had been training on the Tapeta at Fair Hill, and she really enjoyed training on that, so this was a really good opportunity for her to run on this track.”

Social Butterfly raced in third early as Kandoo led the field of 10 through a quarter-mile in 23 seconds and a half-mile in 46.20. Social Butterfly was five wide early but was able to move into the No. 3 path around the turn and gradually reeled in Kandoo during the long stretch drive, stopping the clock for six furlongs in 1:10.80.

“She broke sharp and wanted to go ahead for the lead, but I was able to get her to settle just off the speed,” Spieth said. “Even around the turn, I was able to get her a little breather, and then when I asked her at the head of the lane to go at them, she went on. She was well prepared after a long time off between races. I wasn’t worried. At the quarter pole, I was pretty sure she was a winner.”

• In Race 1, Cootinks Flying Ace ($4.80) prevailed by one length over Of Royal Decent in a $10,000 allowance for Quarter Horses going a quarter of a mile. Cootinks Flying Ace, a 6-year-old gelding by Fly Jess Fly, finished in 22.029 seconds under jockey Rodrigo Sigala Vallejo. Trained by Hernan Parra for Irma Mirabal, Cootinks Flying Ace has won eight of 24 career starts for $122,744.