Last in the early going, Eh Cumpari swept the field late to capture the first stakes win of his career in the Palm Beach Stakes at Gulfstream Park.
The son of Elusive Quality, trained by Mike Dilger and owned by Anstu Stables, made just his second start on grass. He powered home to a neck victory over fellow closers Felifran and Divisidero under Jose Caraballo. Eh Cumpari was forced to launch his bid eight-wide as several horses made formidable moves at the top of the stretch -- it was a mad dash for the finish after the field caught up with longshot pacesetter Nutty Futty, who set fractions of :23.76 and :48.01.
"I didn't want to go that wide, but I had to do it because he was ready,” Caraballo said. “He was ready to go. I had tons of horse. He couldn't have gone any better. I want to thank the owners and Mike Dilger. Mike has been a big supporter of mine for years and years, and I appreciate the opportunity to ride the horse.”
“It was super exciting to watch,” Dilger said. “We were last at one point, and he basically circled the whole field again like he did in his maiden race. It’s not good for the health, but it’s great to win.”
Eh Cumpari, who has influential European sire Sadler’s Wells on the female side of his pedigree, broke his maiden on dirt but was seemingly destined to be a turf horse. After winning at first asking over a “good” Aqueduct main track in a race that was taken off the grass, making a nine-wide bid, the colt finished ninth in the Remsen Stakes, in what would be the final start of his 2-year-old season.
This year, the colt made his turf debut at Gulfstream in the Kitten’s Joy Stakes on Jan. 24, finishing fifth but only beaten 1 ½ length.
“We were very pleased with his last race,” Dilger said. “He had a very, very wide trip. Today, he might have been far back, but he at least saved ground. When he ran in the Kitten’s Joy, I think he was three- to four-wide the whole way around and then finished up a little bit flat at the end to run fifth.”
Dilger also said he believes the colt relished the 1 1/16-mile distance of the Palm Beach after running a mile in his last start.
“I think he appreciated the extra sixteenth of a mile, and I think he’d like to go farther again,” he commented. “I’m very pleased with him.”
Though Eh Cumpari has flourished on turf, Dilger did not rule out another dirt start for the colt down the road.
“He’s out of a Sadler’s Wells mare, which is a little unusual in America,” Dilger explained. “I think an Elusive Quality will probably go either way, and we’ll probably try him on the dirt again. He does seem to like and function well on both. It’s exciting.
“He’s probably slightly better on turf, but he’s a 3-year-old colt doing well at the moment, so there are lots of exciting options for him,” he added. "We’ll discuss it and figure it out tomorrow and enjoy today.”
Eh Cumpari paid $15.40 to win; the final time of the race was 1:40.96. Felifran returned $21.00 to place, while Divisidero’s show paid $4.40.
The order of finish was rounded out by Call Me Crazy, post-time favorite Night Prowler, Nutty Futty, Decision Day, Croninthebarbarian, and Bears Personality.
Edited Gulfstream Park release