01/28/2017 2:19PM

Curlin's Approval delivers as favorite in Hurricane Bertie

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Barbara D. Livingston
Curlin's Approval and jockey Luis Saez win the Hurricane Bertie Stakes by 2 1/2 lengths Saturday.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – The sky was bright blue Saturday for the Pegasus World Cup card at Gulfstream Park – but not as bright or blue as the flashy suit worn by the winning owner in the first stakes of the day.

Happy Alter was hard to miss after his homebred filly, Curlin’s Approval, came through as the odds-on favorite in the 20th running of the Grade 3, $100,000 Hurricane Bertie. The first graded stakes victory for Curlin’s Approval not only gave Alter a chance to show off his duds but also to partake in one of his favorite pastimes – talking about his horses.

“This is, ‘Thank God,’ ” was the short version of what Alter said mere seconds after rooting home Curlin’s Approval from just outside the winner’s circle. “This filly is getting better and better. Her future is bright.”

After getting an early shuffle in the seven-furlong race, Curlin’s Approval and jockey Luis Saez settled nicely from just behind a contested lead. Midway through the far turn, they moved to challenge from the outside, and after running stride-for-stride with Bodacious Babe for a little more than a furlong, Curlin’s Approval began to draw clear once they straightened for home and Saez put her to a drive.

Genre, even more sluggish at the start as the 2-1 second choice in a field of seven fillies and mares, persevered under John Velazquez to get second, 2 1/2 lengths behind the winner and a head before Distinta.

Curlin’s Approval, a 4-year-old daughter of Curlin, returned $3.60 after finishing in 1:23.23 over a fast track. The Kentucky-bred filly now has won four of seven starts for trainer Marty Wolfson.

Alter, a former trainer who conditioned such standouts as Jolie’s Halo and Frosty the Snowman before retiring in 2006, is one of the more colorful characters in racing, and not just because of the way he dresses on big race days. His background includes running a boxing gym and a longtime friendship with Muhammad Ali, whom he met in their youth.

“I didn’t go to his funeral” in June, said Alter. “We made each other a promise that whoever died first, we’d go back to where we first met. That’s what I did. I said my prayers.”

You Bought Her, the 9-2 third choice, was never a factor while finishing fifth in her 49th and final start. The 7-year-old mare is scheduled to be bred to California Chrome.

The $2 exacta (3-1) paid $8.20, the $1 trifecta (3-1-2) returned $20.10, and the 10-cent superfecta (3-1-2-7) was worth $8.79.