Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and Andie Biancone’s Sole Volante rallied from last to capture Wednesday’s featured race for 3-year-olds at Gulfstream Park while prepping for a possible run in the June 20 Belmont Stakes (Grade 1).
The Patrick Biancone-trained gelding was making his first start since finishing second in the March 7 Tampa Bay Derby (G2). He took advantage of a hot pace contested by stablemate Ete Indien, the 3-5 favorite who hadn’t run since finishing third in the March 28 Florida Derby (G1) and Shivaree, who was returning to action from a runner-up finish in the Florida Derby.
The pacesetters set fractions of 23.09 and 45.10 seconds for the first half-mile of the mile optional claiming allowance that was carded as Race 9, while leading the way into the stretch. Sole Volante ($6.40) launched a wide rally on the far turn under Luca Panici and kicked in through the stretch to score by three-quarters of a length.
Jesus’s Team, who rallied inside of Sole Volante, finished second, another three-quarters of a length ahead of Shivaree. Ete Indien, who captured the Feb. 29 Fountain of Youth (G2) by 8 ½ lengths, finished fourth under Florent Geroux while equipped with blinkers for the first time, another 4 ¼ lengths back.
Sole Volante, who captured the Feb. 8 Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs, ran the mile in 1:34.75 to win his third stakes and fourth time overall in six career starts.
“He’s a nice horse. He’s improving. He’s a lighter horse. I think he needed the race less than Ete Indien. With Ete Indien, I think I may make a mistake to put the blinkers [on], because the other horse shaded him the whole way,” Biancone said. “It was a training race. I just want them to come out good. I cross my fingers.”
Sole Volante has been pointed to either the Belmont Stakes or the July 11 Blue Grass Stakes (G2) at Keeneland, while the July 18 Haskell Invitational (G1) at Monmouth Park has been the goal for Ete Indien.
“I don’t think I’m going to change my mind. In five weeks, we’ll go to the Haskell with Ete Indien. Concerning Sole Volante, my owner is very keen on running in the Belmont. We’ll have to wait for the horse to decide. We’ll see how he is the next few days. If he really comes up, we may go. If not, we’ll wait for the Blue Grass. One or the other.”
Panici, who was unable to ride Sole Volante in the Tampa Bay Derby due to an injury, was impressed with the son of Karakontie.
“It was perfect. He’s a horse that’s like a human. His brain is fabulous. The first part when he had to accelerate when he saw the horse in front, he was aggressive to pass the other horse,” Panici said. “What more can I say? I’ve known him from the beginning, and he’s just a wonderful horse to ride. I have to thank all the connections to give me this huge opportunity. He’s just a really great horse.”
Trainer Ralph Nicks was hardly discouraged by Shivaree’s return off the layoff.
“They (Ete Indien and Shivaree) did all the work,” Nicks said. “We’ll look at the Blue Grass."