12/01/2012 2:47PM

Gulfstream Park notes: Closing Range and her trainer, Phil Oliver, both have easy trips

Coady Photography
Closing Range scores her first graded stakes win in the La Prevoyante at Calder. She will now be pointed for the The Very One at Gulfstream.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – The long drive up the turnpike from Calder Race Course to Payson Park didn’t seem quite so bad on Friday night for trainer Philip Oliver – not after his 19-1 Closing Range had led throughout several hours earlier to upset the La Prevoyante Handicap for the first graded stakes win of her still young career.

Closing Range, a 3-year-old daughter of After Market, was allowed to set a relatively slow pace in the 1  1/2-mile La Prevoyante under jockey Elvis Trujillo, then had plenty left to register a 2 1/4-length victory over Ciao Bella, with Havant checking home third as the 4-5 favorite. The win was the fourth in just six starts for Closing Range, who was stretching beyond nine furlongs for the first time on Friday.

“I thought she’d run well. The question mark was the distance,” Oliver said by phone from Payson Park on Saturday morning. “But I figured she’d handle three turns the way she had been galloping out in her previous races, since the outrider had to pick her up every time.”

Oliver said the fact Closing Range was the second-longest price on the board in the six-horse La Prevoyante field likely worked to her advantage.

“I didn’t think the other riders would worry too much about us being out there on our own, and in the end I think that really helped us,” said Oliver. “The course was also pretty chewed up and I think being in front was also a plus because she didn’t have to eat all that dust they were kicking up out there.”

Oliver said he wlll likely give Closing Range a bit of a break before pointing towards the Grade 3 The Very One at 1 3/8 miles at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 16.

Closing Range is one of 22 horses Phil and his wife Vicki Oliver have stabled at Payson this winter. That group includes several other stakes caliber runners, such as Seruni, runner-up this summer in the Grade  2 Firecracker at Churchill Downs; Middie, winner of Arlington Park’s Grade 3 Washington Park Handicap; and the promising 2-year-old filly Liberated, who finished a troubled third last week in Churchill’s Golden Rod.

Philly Ace doing everyting right

Trainer Christophe Clement was equally as pleased after his Philly Ace also became a graded stakes winner for the first time in Friday’s Grade 3 Tropical Turf Handicap. Philly Ace, a son of Smart Strike, rallied to defeat the 9-5 favorite Hollinger for his seventh win in 14 lifetime starts.

“Nice horse, trained well, delighted,” said Clement moments before sending out Dawn Glory and Flower Mart to finish second and third, respectively, in Saturday’s opener at Gulfstream. “He belongs to Brushwood Stable, who have been very loyal supporters of the stable over the years. I was absolutely thrilled to win a stakes for them.”

Clement was also quick to praise Luis Saez for his winning ride aboard Philly Ace, who stalked the leaders from the outset before proving best in the final furlong.

“Perfect trip,” said Clement. “There’s a reason why Saez has been the leading rider at Calder. He’s riding absolutely great. I ran this horse a little further than he wants to go in his last start [the Red Smith Handicap] in New York. He’s a better horse going shorter than that.”

Clement also felt Havant, who finished third as the favorite in the La Prevoyante, performed admirably in defeat.

“She ran well. She got a little flat the last quarter of a mile,” said Clement. “I thought she looked good at the three-eighths but did not finish the race quite like we expected. We’ll regroup and go from there.”

McGaughey quick from the gate

Trainer Shug McGaughey didn’t waste any time getting his first win of the meet, sending out Divine Luck to capture Saturday’s first race. Divine Luck, a son of Ghostzapper, was guided to victory by defending Gulfstream riding champ Javier Castellano.

“At least I won’t have to worry about getting blanked here all winter,” McGaughey said with a smile. “I’m pleased with the way she ran. She ran badly at Keeneland. I really don’t know why. I put blinkers on her, put her in the race today, and it made a big difference.”

McGaughey said it felt a little strange to be standing in the Gulfstream Park winner’s circle on Dec. 1.

“It’s a little weird being here, I’m usually on vacation, playing golf right now,” said McGaughey. “

McGaughey said he has a number of horses to run during the early stages of the meet. One of his horses who won’t be doing any running any time soon is multiple Grade 1 winner Point of Entry, runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, who is getting a break at Payson Park.

“He’s been walking under tack since the Breeders’ Cup but we’re getting close to putting him back in training,” said McGaughey. “It won’t be long.”