01/10/2015 9:05PM

Mshawish prevails by neck in Fort Lauderdale

Barbara D. Livingston
Mshawish, ridden by Javier Castellano, holds off longshot Grand Tito in the Fort Lauderdale.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. -  Mshawish overcame a trip trainer Todd Pletcher simply described as “not the way we drew it up” to register a neck decision over Grand Tito in Saturday’s Grade 2 Fort Lauderdale at Gulfstream Park.  Fredericksburg rallied belatedly to finish third.

Mshawish, a Group 2 winner in Dubai early in 2014, has shown steady improvement since joining Pletcher’s stable last summer. He notched his first U.S. victory in four starts when rallying to a two-length victory in the El Prado Stakes here last month.

With Javier Castellano aboard, Mshawish rated in midpack for a half-mile and then appeared a bit rank when making a quick move between horses to gain close contention midway down the backstretch. Castellano got Mshawish to settle and ease back into the far turn, then made his move approaching the stretch. Mshawish drifted well out leaving the bend but quickly straightened away for the drive, overtook the leaders near midstretch, and then withstood a late bid from Grand Tito.

Za Approval raced wide from the outset, was forced further out by the winner entering the stretch and lacked a final response, finishing fourth while making his first start since being transferred to trainer Mark Casse’s barn following his second-place finish in the Grade 2 Seabiscuit Handicap at Del Mar on Nov. 28.

Mshawish, a 5-year-old son of Medaglia d’Oro, is owned by Al Shaqab Racing. He paid $5.80.

“It wasn’t exactly the way we drew it up. There were some strange riding tactics when another horse [Howe Great] came up outside of him midway down the backside,” said Pletcher. “He kind of drifted the turn a little bit. He’s an extremely talented horse who needs to be covered up a little bit. He never really got great cover today and because of that he never really got turned off. I don’t think too many horses would have won with that type of trip, so it was a real credit to the horse.”

Pletcher said Mshawish would be pointed to the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap on Feb. 7.