Updated on 09/16/2011 7:05AM

Mongoose can't catch Hal

Bill Denver/Equi-Photos
Hal's Hope holds off Mongoose in the Gulfstream Park Handicap after a heady ride by Roger Velez.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Stirring up the echoes of his memorable victory in the 2000 Florida Derby, Hal's Hope became a Grade 1 winner for the second time in his career when he outgamed Mongoose to post a half-length victory in Saturday's $300,000 . Red Bullet, the 1-2 favorite, finished last in a field of five older horses.

Hal's Hope was able to dictate a slow pace under regular rider Roger Velez, going the opening half-mile in 49.17 seconds and six furlongs in 1:13.62 with Mongoose stalking him from the outset. The pair hooked up midway around the second turn and Mongoose appeared to briefly stick his nose in front at the quarter pole before Hal's Hope reasserted himself and regained the lead for good into the stretch.

Defending Gulfstream Park Handicap winner Sir Bear outfinished American Halo to be third, although neither ever threatened the top pair. Red Bullet raced wide throughout while kept within easy striking distance, but was done after a mile and was not under pressure through the final furlong.

Hal's Hope ran 1 1/4 miles in 2:02.91 and paid $15.60 as the second longest price in the field. His $180,000 first-place check pushed his career earnings over the $1 million mark. He also became the first horse to win both the Florida Derby and Gulfstream Park Handicap.

"The plan was to go to the front and make the pace as slow as possible," said Harold Rose, Hal's Hope's 90-year-old owner-breeder and trainer. "Any time he can go a half mile in 49 seconds I know he'll have plenty left at the end. I always knew he was a good horse. Better than good. At times he didn't show it. This win was a big lift."

Jerry Bailey, who rode Red Bullet, said his horse never extended himself.

"He didn't warm up as good as he usually does," said Bailey. "He can always be crabby at times but he will usually snap out of it."

Joe Orseno, who trains Red Bullet for the Stronach Stable, said only that his horse "looked fine and seemed to pull up okay."

Things didn't get any better for Orseno and the Stronach Stable when Thunder Blitz, making his first start since the West Virginia Derby, finished a tiring third behind Bonus Pack under second-level allowance conditions in the 10th race. Thunder Blitz, the 3-5 favorite, won the Grade 3 Flamingo Stakes and finished fourth in the 2001 Kentucky Derby.