02/02/2013 2:24PM

Gulfstream Park: Varsity affirms love for course with victory in Turf Sprint

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Courtney Heeney
Varsity runs his record to four wins in five starts over the Gulfstream grass with a victory under Joe Bravo in the Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint on Saturday.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - “When I started here 20 years ago I was all about a mile and one-half. Now I’m five furlongs in 54. That’s what America has done to me.”

So quipped trainer Christophe Clement with a smile on his face moments after his turf sprint specialist Varsity led from start to finish and completed five-eighths of a mile in 54.17 seconds to capture the $75,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint on Saturday. 

Varsity, a 6-year-old homebred son of Indian Charlie owned by Bertram and Diana Firestone, broke alertly from the rail under regular rider Joe Bravo and never looked back. Varsity discouraged an early challenge from Silver Cloud before edging well clear at midstretch, then held safe Something Extra to prevail by 1 1/4 lengths. Great Attack, the 8-5 favorite in a field of six, finished a similar margin back in third.

Off the Jak, who broke poorly, Silver Cloud, and the Brazilian invader Berlino Di Tiger rounded out the complete order of finish.  The win was the fourth in five starts over the local course for Varsity, who paid $5.80.

“He likes it here," said Clement. "He loves firm turf and Joe knows him inside out. He’s been a project all his life. He was not the soundest horse when he was a young horse - he’s a very big, imposing kind of a gelding - and it’s great when you train for people who have patience because everything worked out.”

Clement said he might look for something “exotic” for Varsity’s next start but did not elaborate on his plans. Varsity is nominated to the $1 million Al Quoz Sprint going 1,000 meters at Meydan on the Dubai World Cup undercard.