08/05/2017 7:31PM

Phantom Ro draws away in Dr. Fager Stakes, Go Astray upsets Desert Vixen

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Lauren King/Coglianese Photos
Phantom Ro is now 2 for 2 after earning his first stakes win in Saturday's Dr. Fager Stakes for Florida-breds at Gulfstream Park.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Phantom Ro emerged from a four-horse scrum at the top of the stretch when running off to a well-earned victory Saturday in the $100,000 Dr. Fager at Gulfstream Park.

One of two starters in the six-furlong Dr. Fager for trainer Ralph Nicks, Phantom Ro returned $8.20 after finishing in 1:10.60 over a fast track. Edgard Zayas was aboard for the Raroma Stable of Rajendra Maharajh.

“He’s a tough little horse,” said Nicks, whose other starter, Soutache, missed second by a half-length to Dunk, the 9-10 favorite in the field of seven. “We’re proud of him.”

The Dr. Fager and its filly counterpart, the Desert Vixen, are the leadoff events in the 36th Florida Sire Stakes (FSS) series.

On a typically hot summer day, Phantom Ro raced just off the rail down the backstretch, surrounded to the inside by Majestic Secret and by Dunk to the outside. At the quarter-pole, as Majestic Secret gradually backed away from the fray, Soutache loomed boldly to the outside, but Phantom Ro then hit another gear in staying unbeaten in two career starts.

“The plan was to stalk the pace, but he broke very sharp,” said Zayas. “So I had to go with him and try to relax him. When I asked him, he responded really good.”

Phantom Ro, a homebred gelding by Wildcat Heir, was a gate-to-wire winner of his lone prior start, a July 8 maiden dash at Gulfstream.

Majestic Secret re-rallied in the final yards to miss catching Soutache by a head for third.

Jockey Aby Medina was thrown from his mount, Tip Sheet, near the half-mile when well behind the leading pack but escaped without serious injury. No other jockeys or horses were affected.

The $2 exacta (4-7) paid $18.80, the $1 trifecta (4-7-8) returned $17.60, and the 10-cent superfecta (4-7-8-3) was worth $5.16.

One race earlier, Go Astray ($23.60) turned back odds-on Awesome Mass at the quarter-pole in going on to a 4 3/4-length upset in 1:11.08 in the $100,000 Desert Vixen.

Always prominent under Jose Batista, Go Astray was winning for the second time in six career starts. The homebred daughter of Gone Astray is trained by Angel Rodriguez for Ramiro Medina.

“I was definitely planning on going to the front,” said Bautista. “Yes, I expected her to win by that much.”

Awesome Mass, the 7-10 favorite under Emisael Jaramillo, was latched onto Go Astray’s flank midway through the turn, but could make no further headway when holding second, a nose before Pantyhose in the field of eight fillies.

The $2 exacta (7-3) paid $64.40, the $1 trifecta (7-3-5) returned $124.30, and the 10-cent superfecta (7-3-5-2) was worth $45.77.

All FSS races are restricted to offspring of sires approved under conditions set forth by the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association. As such, fields for both Saturday races were composed solely of Florida-breds.

Subsequent races in the 2017 FSS series at Gulfstream are the $200,000 Affirmed and $200,000 Susan’s Girl on Sept. 2, and the $400,000 In Reality and $400,000 My Dear Girl on Sept. 30.

The FSS was inaugurated in 1982 at Calder (now Gulfstream Park West) and has produced six Eclipse Award winners: Smile, Brave Raj, Holy Bull, Not Surprising, Big Drama, and Awesome Feather.