C2 Racing Stable and La Milagrosa Stable’s White Abarrio did more than give trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. an April 2 victory in the $1 million Curlin Florida Derby Presented by Hill ‘n’ Dale at Xalapa Farms (G1) and a likely start in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1).
The 3-year-old gray or roan son of Race Day also helped validate Joseph picking up his life and career and moving to the United States in 2011.
“When I said I wanted to move here, my dad said I was crazy because I had been training the best horses in Barbados,” an emotional Joseph said. “But he backed me and supported me.
“After six years, I said, ‘It’s not going to work out.’ He said, ‘We’ve come too far to go back now. We’re not turning back.'”
That determination by father and son has led to increased success in recent years, capped by White Abarrio overtaking Tami Bobo’s Simplification in the stretch and holding off Whisper Hill Farm’s Charge It to capture the Florida Derby Saturday at Gulfstream Park.
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White Abarrio, who won the Feb. 5 Holy Bull Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream, earned 100 points to rank second to Epicenter on the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard, with 112 points overall.
Charge It, under Luis Saez, finished second by a length to earn 40 points, good for 15th on the leaderboard. Simplification, the 2-1 favorite and winner of the March 5 Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream, took third and picked up 20 points with jockey Jose Ortiz. He ranks sixth on the leaderboard with 64 points.
White Abarrio heads to the winner’s circle
The race began with Kentucky West Racing’s Classic Causeway breaking quickly from post 2 and making the lead. Simplification challenged him heading into the clubhouse turn. Classic Causeway set fractions of :23.67 and :47.24 before Simplification moved ahead soon after the half mile.
Simplification remained in front turning for home, but White Abarrio was mounting his challenge, and secured the lead with the charge to the wire ahead.
Charge It, running greenly in his stakes debut, made a late rally, but White Abarrio held the advantage by 1 1/4 lengths and posted a winning time of 1:50.64 for the 1 1/8 miles on a fast track. He paid $7.80 on a $2 win ticket.
“I planned on being a little more forwardly placed,” winning jockey Tyler Gaffalione said. “I thought Classic Causeway and Charge It would be the two on the lead and I thought we would be able to stalk them. But Jose (Ortiz on Simplification) and Pappacap were pretty aggressive and I didn’t want to get caught too wide, so I took back to save some ground.”
Bred by Spendthrift Farm out of the Into Mischief pond Catching Diamonds , White Abarrio was a $40,000 purchase by Carlos Perez from the 2021 Ocala Breeders’ Sales March Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training, where he was consigned by Nice and Easy Thoroughbreds. He also sold at the 2020 OBS Winter Mixed Sale for $7,500 to Jose Ordonez from Summerfield’s consignment.
White Abarrio’s connections enjoy the Florida Derby trophy presentation
Charge It entered the Florida Derby having been lightly raced. In a pair of Gulfstream maiden races at one mile, he finished second in his maiden debut before rolling to victory in a Feb. 12 tests.
“Super pleased with the effort,” trainer Todd Pletcher said of the colt. “To get a real education in a race like that was very encouraging. He got a little green down the lane. He kind of drifted in behind (White Abarrio) and I felt like if he could have just run straight that last 100 yards, he was going to be right there.”
Simplification fought gamely to hold third.
“I’m so happy today,” trainer Antonio Sano said of the son of Not This Time . “We made the decision to run near the front today because (Classic Causeway) was speed and (Pappacap) all the time is behind me.”
Rustlewood Farm’s Pappacap, with rider Edwin Gonzalez, finished fourth to earn 10 Kentucky Derby points, increasing his total to 24—good for 19th on the leaderboard.
The son of gun runner was coming off a disappointing eighth-place finish in the Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.
“I was just happy to see him show up again because of his last race. I just couldn’t understand it,” trainer Mark Casse said of Pappacap. “I thought Edwin gave him a great trip. He just got a little late. Maybe it’s too far, I don’t know. He showed up and gave his best. That’s all I can ask.”
Kentucky West Racing’s Classic Causeway, with jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., finished last in the 11-horse field.
“Irad said he thought he was traveling until about halfway down the backside and then he just sort of ran out of horse,” trainer Brian Lynch said. “So, we’ll do some investigating, but he looked sound. We’ll regroup.”
White Abarrio did not run in the Fountain of Youth following his Holy Bull win, which came after two missed works because of a fever having run through Joseph’s barn. The trainer said there also had been a “hiccup” before the Florida Derby, as the horse ran a temperature 12 days before the race.
“You wake up to that text at 3:45 in the morning; it’s the worst thing you want to see because I was like, ‘Not again,’ ” Joseph said. “Thankfully, he was able to fight it off. By Friday, his blood work started coming back to the point that we thought we were going to be fine.”
He, and the connections, certainly were.
White Abarrio’s connections shower him with love after the Florida Derby
Video: Curlin Florida Derby Presented by Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms at Xalapa (G1)