02/11/2012 5:31PM

Gulfstream Park: Hymn Book, a turf horse no more, wins Donn by a nose

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Tom Keyser
Hymn Book (left) keeps a nose in front of Mission Impazible to win a frantic finish.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Hymn Book appeared destined to be a turf horse early in his career. Now his name will appear on the impressive roster of horses who have won Gulfstream Park’s most prestigious dirt race for older runners after outgaming Mission Impazible by a nose in Saturday’s $500,000 Donn Handicap.

Hymn Book, a 6-year-old homebred son of Arch owned by Stuart Janney III, made six of his first eight starts on grass. But a victory at Belmont Park in an overnight stakes switched from the turf to the main track last May put Hymn Book on a path that ultimately resulted in his victory in the Grade 1 Donn.

Despite breaking from post 10 with a short run to the first turn, jockey John Velazquez was able to get Hymn Book over and in good position racing mid-pack through the opening six furlongs of the 1 1/8-mile Donn. Hymn Book launched his bid while racing five wide entering the stretch, withstood  a bump from Where’s Sterling nearing the eighth pole, forged to a short advantage over Mission Impazible inside the sixteenth pole then was all out to maintain a narrow margin at the wire.

Mission Impazible sat a perfect trip in behind pacesetters Trickmeister and Shackleford, slipped inside that pair to take control entering the stretch, drifted badly after edging clear near the eighth pole, then dug in bravely once headed by the winner to just miss.

Redeemed raced well placed throughout,  came up empty at the end but outlasted Where’s Sterling by a neck to be third. The latter was in the midst of a big run when forced to alter course behind a drifting Redeemed near the eighth pole, losing his momentum after bumping with Hymn Book. 

Shackleford, the tepid 3-1 favorite in a very deep field of 11 older horses, had little left after six furlongs and finished a disappointing seventh in his first start since the Breeders’ Cup.

Hymn Book, who gave trainer Shug McGaughey the first Donn win of his Hall of Fame career, completed the distance in 1:49.16 over a track upgraded from sloppy to good midway through the card.

“I started thinking about this race for him after he ran so well in the Cigar Mile, although I didn’t know it would come up quite this deep,” said McGaughey. “Johnny always had a lot of confidence in this horse going back to when he finished second behind Flat Out in the Suburban.”

McGaughey said he was unsure what would be next for Hymn Book.

“Being New York people naturally we’d want a fresh horse for up there later in the year but the Oaklawn Handicap is one race we might consider before that.”

The Oaklawn Handicap will be run on April 14.