12/13/2011 3:25PM

Gulfstream Park: Never Retreat will get another shot to end career with win

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Coady Photography/Keeneland
Never Retreat, winner of the Grade 1 First Lady Stakes at Keeneland, will end her racing career in the Grade 3 Marshua’s River.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Never Retreat’s racing career is not over yet.

Never Retreat was scheduled to be retired following her 2011 finale in Hollywood Park’s Grade 1 Matriarch. But after finishing a disappointing third as the 4-5 favorite three weeks ago at Hollywood Park, trainer Chris Block decided to give his Grade 1 winner one last chance to show her stuff before heading off to the breeding shed this spring.

Never Retreat will now end her career at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 7 in the same race she opened her amazing 2011 campaign, the Grade 3 Marshua’s River. Never Retreat finished third in the Marshua’s River before ultimately going on to win five graded stakes during the course of the season, highlighted by her 1 1/2-length triumph in Keeneland’s Grade 1 First Lady on Oct. 8. She also captured three Grade 2 races as well as Gulfstream’s Grade 3 Honey Fox. Never Retreat banked $902,000 of her nearly $1.3 million in career earnings this year.

Never Retreat worked for the first time since returning to south Florida when breezing a very easy half-mile in 51.43 seconds over the main track late Monday morning at Gulfstream, cruising through an opening quarter in 26.23 before finishing nicely while kept out near the center of the strip down the stretch.

“Julien said she didn’t handle the ground around the turn well at Hollywood,” Block said, referring to Never Retreat’s rider Julien Leparoux. “He said the footing wasn’t good, and she lost her best stride and her momentum on the turn. Once she got back on better ground, she got back in stride, but by then it was too late.”

Block said he just didn’t want to see Never Retreat go out on that note.

“I just thought after that last race she deserved another shot to show what she’s capable of before being retired,” Block said.

Block said he believes, at the moment, the plan is for Never Retreat to be bred to War Front during the spring.

Block also reported that his Askbut I Won’ttell, who finished 11th and last as the 7-2 second choice in Sunday’s South Beach Stakes, bled during the race.

“Unfortunately, the filly bled, she’s done that from time to time before, and this was one of those times,” Block said. “We’ll just see how she comes out of this before making a decision on where to run her next. If she’s doing okay, we’ll take a shot at the Sunshine Millions race. If not, we’ll just wait and re-evaluate.”

Block also said a decision will be made within the next week regarding the future of reigning Donn Handicap winner Giant Oak who suffered injuries to his hind end during a freak training mishap last month at Hawthorne. Block had been preparing Giant Oak for a start in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs at the time of the incident.

“He’s had another evaluation, and we’re waiting for an indication on just how much time he’ll need to recover to return to training,” Block said. “Once we have that information, we’ll weigh the time off against the possibility of his beginning a stud career this year.”

Margano impresses in maiden win

One of the more impressive performances of the weekend was turned in Saturday by Margano, a 2-year-old son of Dynaformer and baby brother of 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro. Margano showed an impressive turn of foot, accelerating suddenly once settling into the stretch to win his maiden in his third career start going 1 1/16 miles on the turf for trainer Barclay Tagg.

“I thought he ran nicely,” said Tagg. “It’s taken him a little while to grow up. We’ll probably look for an allowance race next. We’ll see how he goes and continues to develop and might consider trying him on dirt somewhere along the way.”

◗ Javier Castellano rode eight winners in four days last week, highlighted by his victory aboard Pomeroys Pistol in the Grade 3 Sugar Swirl to assume command in the jockey standings with 10 winners entering Thursday’s card. He is followed by Julien Leparoux, whose hat trick Sunday featured Thai Haku’s tally in the South Beach Stakes, and Elvis Trujillo with six and five wins, respectively.