Prospect Park's a revelation on turf

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August 10th, 2015

Pam and Martin Wygod's homebred Prospect Park finally delivered the kind of breakout performance that always seemed to be buried in there somewhere. It took a switch to turf in Sunday's $151,000 La Jolla H. (G3) at Del Mar, but this surface brought out his hitherto missing quality: a killer instinct. Inhaling pacesetting 7-5 favorite Om on the far turn, Prospect Park drew off by 4 1/4 lengths and completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.54.

The well-bred son of Tapit had long been well regarded. His dam, the Bertrando mare Quiet Romance, had produced two talented fillies -- Grade 1 winner Silent Sighs and multiple Grade 2 scorer Proposed.

But things just didn't pan out for him on the Triple Crown trail. The big colt took four tries to break his maiden, and when promptly clearing his entry-level allowance condition, he appeared to be in business. Yet when upped in class for the Derby preps, the Cliff Sise Jr. trainee still displayed signs of greenness, as though he hadn't quite figured out the game. A rallying second in the San Felipe (G2) and a lackluster fourth in the Santa Anita Derby (G1), he subsequently came down with a temperature. Sise immediately ruled him out of the Kentucky Derby (G1) picture.

Freshened for the June 7 Affirmed (G3), Prospect Park put his head in front as the 3-5 favorite, only to be outdueled by Gimme Da Lute. Next time in the July 4 Los Alamitos Derby (G2), the same two grappled, with the same result. That was a fine effort, since they flirted with Shared Belief's track record (just .08 off his 1 1/8-mile mark of 1:47.01). Still, there was the nagging sense that "Lute" just wanted it more. Would Prospect Park ever deliver on the big stage, or was he doomed to be a nearly horse?

We saw a different Prospect Park on Sunday -- not only one who's the leading protagonist for the September 6 Del Mar Derby (G2), but a horse with a big future on turf.

Under regular rider Kent Desormeaux, Prospect Park was perched within easy striking range of Om through tepid splits of :23.85 and :48.44. The pace scenario enhanced Om's chances, considering that he had dominated his lone prior turf start on the front end. Best known as the horse who won the only race American Pharoah ever lost, Om appeared ready to quicken on cue.

That's what made Prospect Park's performance so good. Not only did he begin his advance through six furlongs in 1:12.77, but he darted right away from Om. And he did so despite a wide trip (covering a total of 51 feet more than Om, according to Trakus). The longtime leader tried to lift his game, but Prospect Park was gone. Ripping through the mile in 1:35.68, he threw in a 5.86 final sixteenth while striding out with stylish authority.

Om crossed the wire 2 1/2 lengths clear of Royal Albert Hall, with Papacoolpapacool in fourth. Without Prospect Park, you could say that Om turned in another smart wire job.

Desormeaux was effusive in his praise, mentioning Prospect Park in the same breath as Pharoah:

“Finally, this horse did what we knew he could do. We’ve been so high on him, right from the first time I got on him. We knew he was special. But he’s had so many things go wrong. He’s had trouble in his races, he’s gotten sick, he’s had issues -- it goes on. But today he did it.

"We wanted to get him out and running earlier. He’s such a big horse we figured it would be better to get him out earlier, let him get to running rather than waiting and saving for that last eighth. He’s a good one. As good as American Pharoah -- maybe. I think he is.”

Prospect Park was chuffed with himself, as our friends across the pond might say. He celebrated by kicking a flower pot in the winner's circle.

Benoit Photo of Prospect Park in full flight.