Kaigun denies Wake Forest in Pan Am; Photo Call plucks Orchid

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April 2nd, 2016

The Mark Casse-trained Kaigun had run well without winning in his three prior tries at 1 1/2 miles, and the millionaire veteran finally prevailed over the distance in Saturday’s $200,000 Pan American (G2) at Gulfstream Park. It was a close-run thing, though, as he just got the head-bob at the expense of Wake Forest.

The top two each rallied from well off the pace, which was quick early but slowed appreciably as the Pan Am unfolded. Seeking Alpha sprinted through an opening quarter in :23.83 on the good turf, began to throttle down at the half in :48.79, and eased through ensuing splits of 1:14.28 and 1:39.47.

Grand Tito, the 9-5 favorite, wasn’t content when pinned on the rail early and tossed his head in disapproval. Able to find daylight on the backstretch, he took up the outside stalking role, but struck the front earlier than ideal when Seeking Alpha stopped on the final turn. Grand Tito tried to put the race away at the top of the lane, only to be engulfed by closers on both sides.

Joe Bravo opted for the outside path aboard Kaigun, while John Velazquez stuck to the rail on Wake Forest, and both found clear sailing as they surrounded and dispatched Grand Tito. Wake Forest hadn’t been seen since finishing sixth in the August 15 Arlington Million (G1), but you’d never know it by how Chad Brown’s new recruit nearly won off the bench in his first attempt at this trip. The wily Kaigun, who’s finished second in his last four in a row, refused to be denied again and got his head down in 2:29.20. Both went off at 5-2, with Wake Forest slightly preferred of the pair, and Kaigun furnished $7.60 as the third choice.

Grand Tito, the 123-pound highweight, checked in a further 1 1/2 lengths adrift in third. Considering his early woes in the fastest part of the race, this was a solid effort while stepping up in trip. Grand Tito was the only one involved in the pace scrum to be involved at the finish. Pacesetter Seeking Alpha was pulled up, but thankfully walked off, according to the chart.

Campaigned by Quintessential Racing Florida, Horse’n Around Racing Stable, and Gary Barber, Kaigun has now bankrolled $1,361,115 from his 28-6-8-3 line. His prior career highlights came over much shorter in the 2014 Seabiscuit (G2) and Play the King (G2), and he also finished second in that season’s Woodbine Mile (G1), Maker’s 46 Mile (G1) and Manhattan (G1). With age, his distance capacity has increased. After fourths in both the Woodbine Mile and Canadian International (G1) last fall, the gelded son of Northern Afleet developed seconditis in the Red Smith (G3), W.L. McKnight (G3), John B. Connally (G3) and Mac Diarmida (G3) but found the cure here.

Two races earlier, the $200,000 Orchid (G3) for distaffers was a simpler affair dominated by even-money favorite Photo Call on the front end. Despite being a furlong shorter, the Orchid pace was slower than the Pan Am’s, and Photo Call made her rivals pay for the gift.

After Quiet Kitten showed the way through an opening quarter in :25.31, Photo Call asserted for Javier Castellano and reeled off fractions of :49.89, 1:15.00 and 1:38.69. The Galileo mare spurted away in the stretch, with only the unlucky Songoficeandfire making headway late. Photo Call had three-quarters of a length to spare while completing 1 3/8 miles in 2:16.38.

Songoficeandfire is the one to take out of this race. A beautifully bred daughter of Dynaformer and Yorkshire Oaks (G1) winner Catchascatchcan, she’s a half-sister to Group 2 hero and 2004 Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) near-misser Antonius Pius. Songoficeandfire was an eye-catching fourth in her stakes debut in the 2014 Long Island (G3), but didn’t resurface until her promising second here February 3. This marked the second start back from her lengthy absence, and with better luck, the Mott trainee might have won. Aside from the lack of any pace help, Songoficeandfire also encountered trouble when trying to commence her rally. Yet she still made up more than four lengths inside the final furlong.

Stablemate Suffused, a Juddmonte blueblood making her US debut, ran in fits and snatches in fifth. Perhaps it’s just her, but from afar, it appeared that she was reacting to mixed signals from Jose Lezcano – first restrained, then allowed to stride out, then gathered back in again. Of course, things can look a lot different in the saddle, and Suffused might have been giving him a tricky ride anyway. Fourth to Talmada when last seen in England, Suffused has the pedigree to be useful, being by Champs Elysees and out of a Daylami half-sister to Cityscape and Bated Breath. I won’t give up on her yet.

Photo Call, a $3 million Keeneland purchase last November, might have been expected to begin a broodmare career this spring. After all, she enjoyed a career year with Graham Motion in 2015 with scores in the Rodeo Drive (G1) and Violet (G3) and an honorable fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1). But new owner Teresa Viola Racing Stables kept her busy by sending her to Todd Pletcher, and she was fourth to champion Tepin in her reappearance in the February 13 Endeavour (G3) at Tampa. She has compiled a record of 16-5-2-4, $526,096, which also reflects a win during her early career in Ireland as well as placings in the 2014 La Prevoyante (G3) and 2015 Beaugay (G3) and Perfect Sting.

Photo Call was produced by Group 3 winner Theann, a Rock of Gibraltar half-sister to Irish 1000 Guineas (G1) victress Halfway to Heaven and multiple Group 3-winning sprinter Tickled Pink. Photo Call's second dam, Cassandra Go, beat the boys in such major sprints as the King's Stand (G2), Temple (G2) and King George (G3), and Cassandra Go's half-brother is the useful sire Verglas.

Photos courtesy Coglianese Photography (Photo Call on right by Lauren King).