Updated on 09/17/2011 12:49PM

Puzzlement edges his stablemate

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EQUI-PHOTOS
Delmonico Cat (outside) and Jerry Bailey move past horses on the way to a half-length victory in the $100,000 Honey Fox Handicap, a Grade 3 race that ended the opening-day card Saturday at Gulfstream.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Only a dead heat would have made it a perfect afternoon for Allen Jerkens. As it was, the Hall of Fame trainer won with three of four starters on opening day at Gulfstream Park, with his only defeat coming when Bowman's Band was barely beaten by his Jerkens stablemate, Puzzlement, in the $100,000 .

"It's always good to get lucky," Jerkens said with typical calmness following the Grade 3 Hal's Hope.

Puzzlement, bred and owned by Joseph Shields Jr., rallied from last in the field of seven older horses and was up in the final strides to prevail by a neck over Bowman's Band, a 6-year-old whom Jerkens began training last summer. The winner finished 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.39 and paid $7.40 as third choice.

"I had a beautiful trip," said Jorge Chavez, the winning rider. "He has a very big heart."

Bowman's Band, the slight 2-1 favorite under Ramon Dominguez, ran superbly in defeat. He made a bold move in the final turn to take command, only to narrowly miss while finishing eight lengths clear of the third-place finisher and 2-1 second choice, Stockholder.

Jerkens also won earlier races with All Hail Stormy and Buju, both of whom were favored. Buju won a six-furlong, entry-level allowance in 1:08.95, which was 0.11 seconds faster than what Cajun Beat ran in the Mr. Prospector.

Jerkens, whose legendary career spans more than 50 years, noted that he won the Spectacular Bid Stakes on the Gulfstream opener last year with First Blush, but he said "this is my best" opening day at a south Florida track.

Puzzlement, a 5-year-old by Pine Bluff, now has won 6 of 21 starts and nearly $690,000. Both he and Bowman's Band could run back in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap on Feb. 7.

Honey Fox: Delmonico Cat scores

The Hall of Fame tandem of trainer Bill Mott and jockey Jerry Bailey, who have been easily the most dominant figures at Gulfstream in the past decade, teamed to win the final race of the opening-day card when Delmonico Cat stormed to victory in the Grade 3, $100,000 .

Delmonico Cat, bred and owned by Marty and Pam Wygod, returned $11.80 as third choice in a field of 10 fillies and mares. A highly consistent 5-year-old who had finished in the money in 12 of her 13 previous starts, Delmonico Cat finished 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.30 over a firm turf. She now has earned $273,804.

Coney Kitty, always in a good striking position under Cornelio Velasquez, finished second by a half-length. Madeira Mist, the 3-1 second choice, was third, while Something Ventured, the 2-1 favorite, wound up fifth.

Delmonico Cat raced in midpack for much of the way and was still sixth when the field turned for home. "I figured to just let her race where she was comfortable," Bailey said.

Mott assistant Kenny McCarthy said the firm going probably favored Delmonico Cat. "She loves the top of the ground, and when she gets that, she's ultra-consistent," he said.

The Honey Fox ended a $2 pick six that returned $4,143 for each of three perfect tickets.