11/28/2015 8:13PM

Commissioner dominates final career start in Gold Cup

Four Footed Fotos
Commissioner wins the Hawthorne Gold Cup by 2 1/2 lengths Saturday at Hawthorne.

STICKNEY, Ill. – Florent Geroux’s star has ascended rapidly the last two seasons or so, but before Geroux stepped onto the national stage, he honed his craft riding dark winter days here at Hawthorne – though Geroux’s second mount of this Hawthorne meet required little of that craft. Commissioner looked like the best horse on paper, and he asserted his superiority on the racetrack, carrying Geroux to a 2 1/2-length victory early Saturday evening in the Grade 2, $250,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup.

Neck ’n Neck tried to get involved with a homestretch run but never came close to reaching the winner while clearly second-best, beating the pace-setting Majestic Harbor by 2 3/4 lengths for second. Behind Majestic Harbor came Street Spice, Valiant City, Lahshad, Mister Marti Gras, and Fordubai. Heavily favored, Commissioner paid $3.60 to win and was timed in 2:02.09 for 1 1/4 miles on a “good” track.

Trained by Todd Pletcher for owner-breeder WinStar Farm, Commissioner, a son of A.P. Indy, ships straight from Hawthorne to WinStar on Sunday to prepare for a career at stud. Second by a head in the 2014 Belmont Stakes, Commissioner is retired with a career record of 5-3-2 from 15 starts and earnings of $962,237.

It was the second straight Gold Cup win for Pletcher and Geroux. The pair took down the 2014 edition with Red Rifle.

The inside part of the Hawthorne track appeared the best place to be Saturday, but Geroux, stacked three wide into the first turn outside Majestic Harbor and Valiant City, had no concern over his position.

“I wasn’t worried,” said Geroux. “I knew one of them would back up, and I was two wide into the far turn. He’s a big horse, and he takes time to get going, but once he gets in a rhythm, he’s very strong. At the three-eighths pole, he was just warming up.”

Geroux hastened that warm-up by giving Commissioner a right-handed crack of the crop approaching the quarter pole at the head of the long Hawthorne homestretch. Majestic Harbor had set a strong pace, going 23.50 seconds, 47.34, and 1:11.21, and though he tried to battle on, Commissioner had taken his measure before the furlong grounds. Geroux stayed active, and Commissioner kept to his task, tripping the electric eye at the finish well clear of the competition and galloping off toward his stud career.

Recount, Puntsville dominate undercard stakes

Recount and Puntsville scored sharp front-running wins in $50,000 undercard stakes on the Gold Cup program.

Recount made the lead and set a quick, contested pace along the inside in the Blackhawk Handicap but drew off willingly to beat Purely Given by 5 1/2 lengths. Ridden by Tim Thornton for trainer Jim DiVito, Recount paid $4.20 and ran six furlongs in a blazing 1:08.96.

Puntsville got a two-wide pressing trip in the Pershing Stakes, taking over on the far turn and going on to a 3 3/4- length win over Rosie My Rosie. Ridden by Victor Santiago and trained by Michele Boyce, Puntsville paid $5.40 as the favorite and was timed in 1:10 for six furlongs.