05/29/2017 12:18PM

Easy to Say delivers for new barn in Opening Lead Handicap

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Leslie Martin/Coglianese Photos
Easy to Say wins the Opening Lead Handicap at Gulfstream on Sunday by a half-length.

Easy to Say returned quick dividends off the claim for his new connections when rallying to a half-length victory over Focus On Me in Sunday’s $50,000 Opening Lead Handicap at Gulfstream Park. Requite, the 123-pound highweight and 3-5 favorite, finished a well-beaten third in his 2017 debut.

Easy to Say was haltered by trainer Murat Sancal for owner Alp Semsettin Evelmen for $25,000 out of a winning effort here April 15. The son of Eskendereya showed no published works since switching hands but proved to be more than ready off the six-week layoff for the six-furlong Opening Lead.

With Edgard Zayas aboard, Easy to Say settled several lengths off the early pace of Coronado Again, fanned four wide while rallying into the stretch, and gradually wore down Focus On Me near the sixteenth pole to win going away.

The victory was the fifth in just 11 career starts for Easy to Say, who was stakes-placed with previous trainer Jason Servis last summer at Saratoga.

Focus On Me, winless since the summer of 2015, turned in a big effort in defeat after stalking the early leader and holding a short advantage through much of the stretch. He was easily second-best over Requite, idle since finishing well back in the Grade 1 Vanderbilt nine months ago at Saratoga.

Requite broke a step slowly and never threatened the top pair down the stretch. The loss was the first for Requite in four local starts.

Easy to Say completed six furlongs in a lively 1:09.01 and paid $12.60.

“We’ve always liked the high-level claiming game,” said Sancal. “We’ve watched him race several times, and we liked him. He was having some foot issues after his last race, and we’ve dealt with them. I think he’s more than this, so we’ll see where we go.”

Sancal said Easy to Say could make his next start in the Grade 2, $250,000 Smile Sprint, a Win and You’re In race for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, at Gulfstream on July 1.