09/22/2013 7:43PM

Mount Pleasant Meadows: Gorham, Barrios win three Michigan Sire Stakes


The trio of owner Henry Mast, trainer Robert Gorham, and jockey Ricardo Barrios struck first and struck most often Sunday during the Michigan Sire Stakes card at Mount Pleasant Meadows, winning three of the six races in the series.

The Sire Stakes card is Michigan’s marquee day of racing, featuring six $50,000 races for Michigan-sired Thoroughbreds. The card also featured a pair of stakes for Quarter Horses and one for Arabians.

Gorham and Mast have been perennial leaders in Michigan’s racing and breeding industries tracing back to the beginning of their partnership in 1999 at the now-defunct Great Lakes Downs. That partnership hit a high point in 2012, when they were named National Small Breeder of the Year by the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association.

“We had a lot of breeders here today, and I think they’re reinvigorated,” Gorham said. “All of us are more encouraged about the future of racing in Michigan. I think it really is quite a comeback day.”

Mast, Gorham, and Barrios took both juvenile divisions of the Sire Stakes, starting with Al’s Prayer in the males’ division. The Meadow Prayer colt dueled with the favored Obsessionsoptimist into the final turn and drew off in the final furlong to win by 3 1/4 lengths. Al’s Prayer finished the five-furlong race in 1:02.21 and paid $6.40.

Afternoon Prayer secured the juvenile double for the group, prevailing in a duel with runner-up Perfect Question for all five furlongs of the race to finish a neck in front. The Meadow Prayer filly completed the race in 1:03.34 and also paid $6.40.

The result confirmed the finish of the prep allowance run at Mount Pleasant two weeks prior, when Afternoon Prayer defeated Perfect Question but was taken down after failing to handle the four-furlong track’s turns.

“Her first time up here, she blew these tight turns, so we did a lot of work in the interim to get her used to them,” Gorham said. “We elected to run in the prep races up here to get them used to the turns, and I think it paid off in that particular race.”

Art I Awesome completed the three-race winning streak for Gorham, Mast, and Barrios in the stakes for 3-year-old males,  besting late-charging stablemate Im Just Good by a half-length. The Equality colt paid $4.60 as the favorite, stopping the clock for the six-furlong race in 1:14.69.
Art I Awesome was one of two repeat Sire Stakes winners from 2012, having won the juvenile male division last year.

“He’s a good horse,” Gorham said. “He’s going to go down as one of our favorites with [Michigan Horses of the Year] Rockem Sockem and Weatherstorm.”

Trainer Ronald Allen Sr. took home a pair of Sire Stakes wins, starting with Im All Business in the race for 3-year-old fillies. The War Image filly, homebred by Lisa Campbell, took command after chasing early leader Silver Sadie in the race’s early goings and drew off under jockey Federico Mata to win the six-furlong race by 5 1/4 lengths. She finished in 1:14.19 and paid $7 as the second choice.

Power of Titus successfully defended his title as Michigan’s top older male, and did so in track-record time, setting the new bar for 1 1/16 miles at 1:51.38. The 6-year-old Secret Romeo gelding, owned and trained by Delcor Waite, patiently stalked pacesetters Moving Style and Hour by Hour under jockey Alvaro Hernandez-Lopez before assuming command with a half-mile to go and disposing of the field by 6 1/2 lengths. He paid $7 as the favorite.

Allen picked up his second win of the program in the stakes for older females, where Charlies Fire led at every point of call to win by 1 1/2 lengths. The 6-year-old Fire Blitz mare, also homebred by Allen, faced pressure from a resilient Prayer Salute into the final furlong before taking control and crossing the line with Mata in the irons in 1:55.22. Sunday’s race was the second Sire Stakes victory for Charlies Fire ($5), who won the 3-year-old fillies’ division in 2010 at Pinnacle Race Course.

Earlier on the card, one of the leading families in Michigan Quarter Horse racing swept a pair of stakes for the breed. First, owner and trainer Dave Gates saddled Surleys Bikini Beach to a 1 1/2-length win in the $15,896 Great Lakes Quarter Horse Association Stallion Service Sale Futurity. His son, Lee Gates, piloted the Escondido Beach filly to complete the 350-yard race in 18.210 seconds.

Another Gates son scored in the $7,100 GLQHA Stallion Service Sale Derby, where Im a Money Maker scored the upset win for trainer Brad Gates and owner Kim Gates. Ridden by Eric Forgar, the Planetary gelding prevailed by a head in the 400-yard race, crossing the wire in 20.479.The final race of the day, the $5,000 Purina Open Stakes for Arabians, marked a successful finale for popular Michigan-bred Catch Me Ridin Dirty, who prevailed in the six-furlong race by three lengths to finish his career with 14 wins in 20 starts. Bred and trained by Nicole Holst and owned by Jolene Sweet, the 7-year-old Aransas HF gelding finished in 1:23.42 under Barrios.