Coal Front Fires in Mr. Prospector Stakes

Courtesy of the BloodHorse

Coal Front wins the Mr. Prospector Stakes at Gulfstream Park
Coal Front wins the Mr. Prospector Stakes at Gulfstream ParkCoglianese Photos/Lauren King

Stay Thirsty ridgling pulled away to win by 3 3/4 lengths.

Robert LaPenta and Head of Plains Parners’ Coal Front proved he was back in top form Dec. 22, when he turned in a dominating performance in the $100,000 Mr. Prospector Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park.

After suffering a condylar fracture to his right front leg in 2017 that required surgery and a layoff of 13 months—the second condylar fracture of his short career—the multiple stakes winner returned to racing in the fall of 2018.

The 4-year-old Stay Thirsty  colt’s first effort back in the Nov. 2 Bold Ruler Handicap (G3) at Aqueduct Racetrackwas not on par with his prior efforts, and he finished fifth in the six-horse field.

“Last time at Aqueduct, he drew the one hole going a demanding distance in his first start off a layoff,” said trainer Todd Pletcher, “He got in a speed duel that day, and the track was very deep and tiring. It’s hard to win in those scenarios off that long of a layoff.”

Saturday proved to be a much different story.

After a sharp break from the far outside post 11, Coal Front rated well on the outside in third behind early leader Kroy, who led the field through a half-mile in :45.31.

Four wide with a quarter-mile to go, Coal Front advanced steadily and dueled briefly with Kroy in the upper stretch, where the two made brief contact.

Edging past his rival with a final kick, Coal Front straightened out and pulled away to win by 3 3/4 lengths. The final time for the seven furlongs was 1:23.16.

“It ended up being perfect out there, with so much speed in the race,” said winning jockey John Velazquez. “I let him do his own thing out there, relax well outside horses, and when I asked him he was there for me.”

Cutting through the pack to find clear trip on the rail, Storm Advisory rallied for second and was followed by Heartwood in third. It was another 1 1/4 lengths back to last-out Claiming Crown Rapid Transit Stakes victor Uno Mas Modelo in fourth.

“We’ve targeted this race since then, and he’s trained as well (as) we’d hoped he would have—actually, as well or better than ever—and got the trip we were wanting today,” Pletcher said. “To be honest I’d be really disappointed had he not performed well today based on the way he’s been training.

“The things he’s been showing us training and the way he ran today and galloped out, I think he’s wanting to stretch out. We’ve got to see if that’s a mile or two turns. We’ve got all kinds of options.”