HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence’s Focus Group found an opening along the rail in midstretch and surged through to nose out his first career graded score in Saturday’s Pan American Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park.
Breaking from the rail as the 9/5 favorite under Irad Ortiz, Jr., Focus Group settled along the inside in midpack while Village King and Salute the Colonel dueled two-wide up front through opening fractions of :24.93, :51.62, 1:18.37, and 1:44.87. Rounding the far turn for the second time, the bettors’ choice remained perfectly positioned just behind the pacesetters. At the top of the stretch, an opening emerged along the rail and Focus Group surged through. Under a steady drive the length of the stretch, Focus Group dug in and just nipped a game Melmich along the outside by a nose for the victory. The Chad Brown trainee completed the 1 1/2-mile marathon event in 2:30.03 over the firm turf course.
“I got a perfect trip, I saved all the ground I could,” said Ortiz, Jr., who won his third stakes race on the card. “(Village King) got out a little bit, so I was a little lucky I got through there, which was probably the key for us. Javier (Castellano, aboard Melmich) had to check a little bit because he had a horse there and that’s why I won the race. We got lucky (that) we got the win. He’s a nice horse who always tries. From this race, I think he’ll improve.”
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