02/22/2014 3:26PM

Gulfstream Park: Normandy Invasion easy winner in comeback

Barbara D. Livingston
Normandy Invasion, making his first start since the 2013 Kentucky Derby, cruises to a 7 3/4-length victory under Javier Castellano.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Normandy Invasion rewarded trainer Chad Brown and owner Rick Porter for their patience by launching his 2014 campaign with an easy 7 3/4-length victory in an entry-level optional $25,000 claiming race here Saturday.

Normandy Invasion covered the mile in 1:33.13, breaking the mark of 1:33.71 set by Commentator in 2008.

The start was the first for Normandy Invasion since his fourth-place finish in the 2013 Kentucky Derby.

Under confident handling from jockey Javier Castellano, Normandy Invasion rated off a swift pace set by Risk Factor before moving four wide to challenge for command entering the stretch. Normandy Invasion quickly opened a commanding advantage, and then was taken in hand and was just cruising to the wire. He paid $2.40.

“When they train as well as this horse and they physically look this good – he’s never looked better in my opinion –you’re quietly confident they’ll go out there in the afternoon and do it,” said Brown. “But as a trainer, I don’t care who you are, I don’t think you’re ever certain they’re going to do it until they actually cross the wire. But he was sound, training better than ever.

“We were confident to put Javier back on this horse. They get along well together, and we hope this is the start to a very good year.”

Brown credited Porter with being patient enough to give Normandy Invasion the necessary time off to recuperate from the little issues he had coming out of last year’s Derby.

“This horse, the Derby was hard on him,” said Brown. “Could we have put little band-aids on him and gotten him to the Jim Dandy and Travers? Probably. But Rick Porter is really the quarterback here, he calls all the plays, and when I relayed to him what this horse’s condition was and all the options, he didn’t hesitate about stopping on this horse.”

[Clocker Reports: Get Mike Welsch’s clocker reports from Gulfstream Park and Palm Meadows]

Brown said he has nothing specific picked out for Normandy Invasion’s next start.

“This one-turn mile was a good starting point, but we’re looking to run this horse in those two-turn dirt handicap races, really anywhere,” said Brown. “This horse doesn’t need a specific racetrack. He’s pretty versatile, so we’ll nominate to everything. I’ll just relay to Mr. Porter how this horse is doing and we’ll discuss together where we should run.”