02/07/2015 5:08PM

Sandiva handles older females in Suwanee River

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Barbara D. Livingston
Ridden by Javier Castellano, Sandiva wins the Grade 3 Suwanee River on Saturday, her first graded victory in the U.S.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Sandiva was unproven against older fillies and mares, but no longer. Making her 4-year-old debut, Sandiva rolled to an emphatic victory Saturday as the 2-1 favorite in the 72nd running of the Grade 3, $150,000 Suwannee River on the Gulfstream Park turf.

Ridden by Javier Castellano, Sandiva secured an outside stalking spot for the run down the backstretch of the 1 1/8-mile turf race before surging to an open lead in midstretch and finishing a length ahead of late-closing Rosalind. She paid $6.20 after finishing in 1:47.31 over firm going.

Trainer Todd Pletcher was on hand to greet representatives of winning owner Al Shaqab Racing in the Gulfstream winner’s enclosure.

“We got the trip we wanted, and then she came home with a sustained run,” said Pletcher.

Skylander Girl set the pace and was tracked closest by Nellie Cashman. Meanwhile, Castellano and Sandiva began picking off rivals with a clear outside run leaving the half-mile pole.

“I had a beautiful trip,” said Castellano, the two-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey who is fast approaching the 4,000-win mark.

Sandiva, an Irish bred by the Coolmore stallion Footstepsinthesand, had raced exclusively within her age group in her 12 prior starts and was coming off a victory in the Tropical Park Oaks over the Gulfstream turf on Dec. 20. This was her first graded win in the United States after two Group 3 triumphs in Europe.

The Suwannee River came some 20 minutes after Pletcher won the Withers Stakes at Aqueduct with Far From Over.

E B Ryder, Cay Dancer, and Sheer Drama were early scratches, leaving a field of 11 fillies and mares.

The $2 exacta (8-10) paid $50.80, the $1 trifecta (8-10-3) returned $167, and the 10-cent superfecta (8-10-3-4) was worth $89.59.