In the period between January 21 and February 19, South Carolina farms and training centers were represented by 8 graduates having their picture taken in the winner’s circle in California, Louisiana, Florida, Arkansas and Maryland following stakes races.
On February 2, Mucho Gusto captured the Robert B. Lewis S.-G3 at Santa Anita. Third early on, he surged to the front at the top of the stretch and proved much the best winning by 4 ¾ lengths. This three-year-old colt learned his early lessons at Kip Elser’s Kirkwood Stables in Camden, S.C. This victory places him on the Triple Crown Trail.
Winter Sunset improved her record to 2 for 2 capturing the Shantel Lanerie Memorial S. at Fair Grounds on February 9. Advancing to a Stakes after breaking her maiden in her debut, Winter Sunset trailed the field after the opening ¼ mile. She was widest of all entering the final turn, came between horses and quickly opened up to hit the wire 1 ½ lengths in front. Winter Sunset is a graduate of Franklin “Goree” Smith’s Elloree Training Center.
On the same day, Hembree was in no rush early on in the El Prado S. at Gulfstream Park. Trailing by over 14 lengths in the early stages of the race, Hembree exploded in the stretch getting up in the shadow of the wire setting a new track record for the seven and one half furlongs on the turf. Hembree went through the breaking process under the watchful eye of Travis Durr at the Webb Carroll Training Center.
In the Pelican S. at Tampa Bay on February 16, Killybegs Captain set the pace and improved his position at every pole. While turning back some bids, he crossed the finish line 4 ½ lengths in front. He is a product of Cary Frommer’s operation in Aiken.
At Fair Grounds on February 16, Mitchell Road was victorious in her Stakes debut in the Albert M. Stall Memorial S. She stalked the leader for the first ¾’s of a mile before advancing to the lead at the top of the stretch. While under pressure, she would not be denied being ¾’s of a length clear at the wire. She also is a graduate of Travis Durr’s program.
On February 16, Synchrony became a five time stakes winner capturing the Fair Grounds H.-G3 in New Orleans. This was his third Graded Stakes win at that track. Having only one beat early on, Synchrony had to overcome some traffic before coming 6 wide into the stretch. He put in a strong rally to get up to win by 1 ¼ lengths. He has 8 career wins and has finished in the top three in 16 of 19 career starts. Synchrony is a product of Jane Dunn’s program at Holly Hill Training Center.
Kip Elser’s Kirkwood Stables pupil Coal Front was the favorite in the Razorback H.-G3 at Oaklawn Park on February 18. Facing 13 others, he stalked the leader before taking the lead inside the 3/8’s pole. Coal Front had to withstand the late surge from another before winning by a neck in a game performance.
In the Maryland Racing Media S. at Laurel Park on February 18, Enchanted Ghost broke on top and was in front to the top of the stretch before briefly surrendering the lead. He fought back and won the battle to the wire by a half length. Having learned his early lessons at the Elloree Training Center, Enchanted Ghost is trained by Goree’s brother, Hammy Smith.