07/04/2013 3:45PM

Gulfstream Park: Alley Oop Oop by a head in Armed Forces

Leslie Martin
Alley Oop Oop (No. 2), ridden by Fernando Jara, beats Bad Debt by a head in the Armed Forces Stakes on Thursday.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Alley Oop Oop gave his backers and connections a few anxious moments before ultimately grinding out a hard-fought head decision over even-money favorite Bad Debt in Thursday’s $108,000 Armed Forces Stakes.

Restricted to Florida-breds, the Armed Forces was the first stakes race of the 2013 Gulfstream Park summer meeting.

With regular rider Fernando Jara aboard, Alley Oop Oop settled in midpack off the early pace of Balino, who opened a long early lead in the 1 1/16-mile Armed Forces. Alley Oop Oop gradually advanced once leaving the backstretch, came wide while continuing his rally into the stretch, and finished with a big surge to overtake Bad Debt near the wire.

Bad Debt, who handed Alley Oop Oop a neck setback when the pair last met in Calder’s Bonnie Heath Turf Cup in November, was hung wide while forwardly placed from the outset. Bad Debt forged to a short advantage in midstretch but was unable to withstand the winner near the wire.

Alley Oop Oop, a homebred son of Monsieur Cat, is owned by Fred Brei’s Jacks or Better Farm and trained by Stanley Gold. He completed the distance in 1:41.45 over a firm course and paid $5.80.

“At first, I was real concerned because it looked like he wasn’t handling the turf at all,” Gold said. “Then I was worried he wasn’t going to get a clear path. Fernando finally got himself in position, but it still didn’t look like he was grabbing the track until the three-furlong pole. But then he got his head on straight, and once he got to the quarter pole, he was rolling. He’s a game horse and always has to give you a heart attack. He’s just a battler who doesn’t know how to win easily.”