03/15/2008 12:00AM

Gottcha Gold wins from off the pace

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Gottcha Gold showed his class by running second to Corinthian in the inaugural Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile last year. Saturday in the Grade 3, $150,000 Skip Away Handicap at Gulfstream Park, his class, as well as his versatility, was displayed.

Normally a horse who goes immediately to the lead, establishing quick splits, Gottcha Gold changed tactics in the Skip Away, mostly out of necessity. When stretch-out sprinter Mr. Umphrey broke alertly and set blazing splits, Gottcha Gold had little option but to rate off the lead.

Rate effectively he did. He settled in second early, as Mr. Umphrey set fractions of 23.01 seconds, 45.61, and 1:09.41 in the 1 1/8-mile race. He went after the leader on the final turn and drew clear to post a 3 1/2-length victory under Chuck Lopez.

Mr. Umphrey, dismissed at 40-1, held on for second, a length clear of the late-running Hunting. Frost Giant, the even-money favorite, lost a couple of lengths with a tardy break and finished fourth.

The Skip Away was the third graded stakes victory for Gottcha Gold from his last five starts, with his other graded wins coming in the Grade 3 Salvator Mile and Iselin Handicap, which both came at Monmouth. The significance of winning outside New Jersey proved satisfying to his trainer, Eddie Plesa Jr.

"It was a mile-and-an-eighth race at Gulfstream, which means it was away from Monmouth, and it was a graded stakes - all things some people thought he couldn't do," he said.

Gottcha Gold, owned by Centaur Farms, raced 1 1/8 miles over a fast track in 1:51.31. He paid $8.20.