12/20/2014 7:12PM

Sandiva works out trip from post 13 in Tropical Park Oaks

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Leslie Martin
Javier Castellano guides Sandiva to a neck victory in the Tropical Park Oaks.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. -  Saturday’s Tropical Park Oaks was won in the first quarter-mile. Not by jockey John Velasquez, who did a great job slowing the early pace to 24.73 seconds aboard 2-1 favorite Party Now. But by Javier Castellano, who maneuvered Sandiva into perfect position from post 13 in the run to the opening bend of the 1 1/16-mile turf race.

Sandiva made the most of Castellano’s adroit handling, eventually wearing down and outgaming Party Now to register a hard-fought neck victory. The win was the first in four U.S. starts for Sandiva, a daughter of Footstepsinthesand who is owned by Al Shaqab Racing and trained by Todd Pletcher.

“We were concerned when we saw the post position draw,” said Pletcher. “You kind of got to go one way or the other. You’ve got to either take back or go a little bit. We decided to let her run away from there in the hope she would end up getting the position she wound up getting. It was a perfect job by Javier.”

Party Now dug in bravely when headed by Sandiva, fighting on gamely through the final furlong, but was unable to come back on the winner. Dancing House rallied belatedly to finish third.

Sandiva completed the distance in 1:41.78 over the firm course and returned $10.60.

“She came over with a good reputation from Europe and it took us a little while to get the kind of trip we were looking for,” said Pletcher. “I thought her last race at Churchill Downs was sneaky good and she came down here and trained really, really well. I felt she was coming up to the race as good as she could, and she delivered a big performance.”