01/09/2016 4:27PM

Mshawish looks good on dirt winning Hal's Hope

Leslie Martin/Coglianese Photos
Mshawish (3), with Javier Castellano aboard, defeats favored Valid by a neck in the Grade 3 Hal's Hope.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. -  Mshawish gave every indication he may indeed be as good on dirt as he is on grass while possibly earning himself a spot in next month’s Grade 1 Donn Handicap after posting a well-deserved neck decision over the tepid favorite Valid in Saturday’s Grade 3 Hal’s Hope at Gulfstream Park.

Mshawish, who won the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap here last winter, was making just his third start on dirt and first since finishing a good fourth in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile in late November. Rated just off the early pace by jockey Javier Castellano, Mshawish moved three wide leaving the final turn, engaged Valid for command in early stretch, and after sticking his head in front near midstretch gamely maintained a narrow advantage to the end.

Valid, whose only setback in his last four starts came in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, showed the way along the inside while pressed by Grande Shores through fractions of 24.26 seconds, 46.69, and 1:09.95. The leader dug in when headed by the winner, fought back willingly near the rail but was not quite good enough. Grande Shores finished another 3 1/4 lengths farther back in third.

Matrooh and Mr. Jordan bumped solidly immediately after the start, finishing fourth and fifth, respectively, in the scratch-reduced field of five older horses.

Mshawish, a 6-year-old son of Medaglia d’Oro, gave the team of trainer Todd Pletcher, owner Al Shakab Racing, and Castellano their second stakes win on the card. The trio also combined to capture the Grade 3 Marshua’s River with Sandiva earlier in the day.  Mshawish returned $6.40 after completing a mile in 1:34.61.

“I had a lot of respect for Valid after running against him with Liam’s Map and Madefromlucky this year and he’s a tough horse to get by,” said Pletcher. “I was a little concerned when he made the lead because I know when you go to fight with him, he’s going to fight back, and I think Javier knew that as well and kind of stayed away from him and didn’t try to engage him. Still he [Valid] dug back in, and I thought it was a quality effort from him [Mshawish]. The time was very good. I was happy to see him win a big race on the dirt because he’s always trained like he could do that.”

Pletcher said he and the horse’s owners would discuss next-race options, both the Donn and Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap on Feb. 6, along with a return trip to Dubai, where Mshawish finished third last year in the Dubai Turf.