01/05/2011 6:29PM

Final Mesa returns from layoff with sharp Old Hat victory

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Bob Coglianese
Final Mesa pulls away to win the Old Hat, giving Joel Rosario his second win of the day.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Final Mesa proved much the best following a five-month layoff Wednesday when dominating the opening-day feature of the 2011 Gulfstream Park meet, the Grade 3, $100,000 Old Hat Stakes.

“She’s a really special filly,” owner-trainer Wesley Ward said afterward.

Joel Rosario, the hottest jockey in Southern California, was making his first appearance at Gulfstream after traveling cross-country by air to accept the mount on Final Mesa and two other horses. Prominent from the start of the six-furlong race, Final Mesa pulled away down the stretch, winning by 1 3/4 lengths after finishing in 1:09.75 over a fast main track. The winner returned $7.60 as third choice in a field of six 3-year-old fillies.

Pomeroys Pistol, the longest shot in the field at 34-1, finished second, another 5 1/4 lengths before Roxy Gap, the 3-2 second choice. Quantum Miss, the 7-5 favorite, briefly threatened at the quarter pole before fading to fifth.

Final Mesa, a New York-bred by Sky Mesa, was winning for the fourth time in five career starts. Her only poor effort came over a synthetic surface in the Sorrento Stakes at Del Mar last August, when “she didn’t like the track, I don’t think,” said Ward. She then got time off before revving up for the Old Hat.

Ward said he may try to stretch out Final Mesa in her next start, “maybe in six or seven weeks, whenever the right opportunity comes up.”

On a warm and breezy afternoon, It’s Me Mom led early, with Final Mesa and Pomeroys Pistol giving closest chase. Down the stretch, Final Mesa asserted herself with all but Pomeroys Pistol tiring badly.

“She quickened really well and ran hard through the stretch,” said Rosario.

Rosario, who does not intend to ride regularly here, also won the sixth race for Ward aboard Gazillion Kisses ($13), a first-time starter.

With War Prospector, a 41-1 shot, winning the seventh race Wednesday, there were no winning tickets sold on the new 50-cent pick five, which is offered on the last five races daily. There is a carryover of $35,203 into Thursday.