12/01/2012 5:55PM

Gulfstream Park: Nikki's Sandcastle finally wins close finish in Emerald

Courtney Stafford
Nikki's Sandcastle, ridden by Corey Lanerie, barely outfinishes Major Marvel in the $125,000 Claiming Crown Emerald.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. -   Nikki’s Sandcastle, a hard-luck second on several occasions this year, proved he can indeed win the close ones by outgaming Major Marvel following a thrilling stretch run to capture Saturday’s Claiming Crown Emerald at Gulfstream Park.    

Nikki’s Sandcastle, beaten a half-length or less four times in 2012, benefited from a perfectly trip under jockey Corey Lanerie, who is riding regularly at Gulfstream for the first time this winter. Nikki’s Sandcastle, well placed and saving ground early, angled out to engage Major Marvel while three wide turning for home and then got the best of the head bob at the wire. Exclusive Strike finished third, followed by the tepid 2-1 favorite King David, who hung a bit through the final furlong and had to settle for fourth.

Nikki’s Sandcastle a 5-year-old son of Castledale, is trained by David Kassen for owner Richard Sherman. He paid $6.80.

“This horse runs on anything and shows up every time,” said Kassen. “He had a lot of trouble down here most of the time last winter and finally won in his final start. The jock told me he got there and wanted to loaf when he hit the lead today. This was a little vindication after all those seconds. A couple of those races we could have won. He’s just a nice horse, he really is.”

Kassen said he will look for a stakes here later this winter for Nikki’s Sandcastle’s next start.