Identifier gives jockey Marcos Meneses his first graded stakes victory in the U.S., winning the Hal’s Hope at odds of 60-1
Gelfenstein Farm’s Identifier trailed early then powered down the center of the track to reel in front-running favorite Bodexpress and edge clear by a length for a 60-1 upset in Saturday’s $100,000 Hal’s Hope (G3) at Gulfstream Park.
The 30th running of the 1 1/8-mile Hal’s Hope for 4-year-olds and up was the first of six graded-stakes and 10 stakes overall worth $1.825 million on a blockbuster 14-race program anchored by one of the country’s premier Triple Crown preps, the $750,000 Curlin Florida Derby (G1).
Identifier returned $123 as the longest shot in a field of 11, completing the distance in 1:50.25 over fast main track. Just Whistle, sent off at 24-1, passed Bodexpress late for second, with 128-1 longshot Eye of a Jedi finishing fourth after missing the break.
It marked the first graded-stakes win in North America for both jockey Marcos Meneses and trainer Oscar Gonzalez. Meneses rode more than 500 winners, including 2012 Clasico Simon Bolivar (G1) victor Comediante, in Venezuela before venturing to the U.S. in 2015. Gonzalez saddled Guasca to victory in the 2012 Copa Dama del Caribe (G1), also in Venezuela.
“I’m very grateful to Mr. Gonzalez and I’m very happy for the horse. He’s a good horse,” Meneses said. “Last time there were only a few horses in the race. This race today had a lot of speed. I just waited and waited all the way. I began my race from the three-eighths pole. The horse was perfect.”
Meneses is represented by agent Roger Velez, a former jockey who rode Hal’s Hope to victories in the 2000 Holy Bull (G3) and Florida Derby (G1) and 2002 Crème Freche (G3) and Gulfstream Park Handicap (G1). The Crème Freche was renamed for Hal’s Hope in 2003.
“It was very special to me,” Velez said. “That was my horse.”
Bodexpress, last year’s Florida Derby (G1) runner-up as a maiden and the 2-1 Hal’s Hope favorite, was gunned to the lead by jockey Emisael Jaramillo but outrun by Luis Saez and Rare Form, who went the opening quarter-mile in 23.34 seconds. Bodexpress turned up the pressure after a half in 47.24, cruised past the leader on the far turn, and turned for home with the advantage.
Meneses, meanwhile, settled Identifier into a rhythm well back while saving ground along the rail midway into the far turn, then swung well wide approaching the stretch and set down for a drive to the wire, surging past inside the final sixteenth of a mile.
Prompt, You’re to Blame, Sir Anthony, Harvey Wallbanger, American Tattoo, Realm and Rare Form completed the order of finish.
Previously trained by Jorge Navarro, who is now under federal indictment as part of an illegal racehorse doping scheme, Identifier broke his maiden last March at Gulfstream and was fifth in his lone previous stakes attempt, the 2019 Pegasus at Monmouth Park. He was a head winner of a 1 1/8-mile off-the-turf optional claimer under Meneses Feb. 1 at Gulfstream in his Hal’s Hope prep.
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