03/31/2012 6:49PM

Gulfstream: Hit It Rich rewards McGaughey with Orchid win

Barbara D. Livingston
Hit It Rich, with Javier Castellano up, wins the Orchid.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer Shug McGaughey had toyed with the idea of flying to New Orleans to watch his beloved Kentucky Wildcats play their arch rival Louisvile Cardinals in the semifinals of the NCAA basketball tournament instead of staying in town to saddle Hit It Rich in Saturday's $150,000 Orchid at Gulfstream Park.  As things turned out, the Hall of Fame horseman was glad he decided not to make the trip.

In a race that unfolded in a surprising and somewhat unorthodox manner, Hit It Rich outfinished the pacesetting Aqsaam to register a half-length victory under leading rider Javier Castellano in the Grade 3 Orchid. Keertana, the 6-5 favorite, rallied belatedly to finish another head further back in third.

Hit It Rich, who is owned by his breeder Stuart Janney III, settled off the early pace of Aqsaam who sprinted more than a dozen lengths clear of the field before completing the opening half mile of the 1 1/2-milefurlong Orchid. Hit It Rich, winner of the Grade 3 Long Island Handicap in his 2011 finale, began to advance around the final turn before finally overtaking the game leader in late stretch.

Aqsaam, who entered the Orchid perfect in three career starts, got a breather from jockey Rajiv Maragh after completing his opening mile in 1:39.69, dug in bravely when engaged by the winner in late stretch, but could not last. Keertana finished best of all but was left with too much to do after racing near the rear of the pack to the stretch.

Hit It Rich, a 5-year-old daughter of Smart Strike, paid $7.40 as the second choice in a field of nine long-winded fillies and mares.  Final time for the 12 furlongs was 2:28.06 over a firm course.

"She's a true mile-and-one-half horse," said McGaughey before hustling off to watch the game, which was already in progress. "Javier did a good job sitting chilly when the other horse went out on the lead like that and had a lot of horse left. I'm really happy with her. She's shown a lot of improvement over the last four months."

McGaughey said he's not sure what's next for Hit It Rich.

"The next mile-and-one-half race is at Keeneland, and that might be a little quick," said McGaughey. "I'll get her back to New York and see how she's doing before making any decision