“TDN Rising Star” Unified made a victorious return to the races Saturday with a gritty defeat of Grade I winner Mind Your Biscuits in the Gulfstream Park Sprint Saturday. Sent off as the crowd’s second choice in this return off an eight-month layoff, the Centennial Farms runner broke sharply from his rail draw and was hustled up by Jose Ortiz to take his preferred position on the front end. Ticking off early fractions of :22.37 and :44.71, the dark bay had a clear lead turning for home and kept on finding in the lane while racing on his left lead to hold off a late surge from GI Malibu S. winner Mind Your Biscuits.
“He’s a fast horse,” winning trainer Jimmy Jerkens remarked. “He proved that last year. He trained really super the last three weeks. He didn’t really like breaking from the one [hole]. But when you’re fresh like this and come popping out of there you end up being the best speed, at least that time, anyway. I told [Ortiz] if he breaks with the field go on with him because he is not going to like anybody crossing over him and throwing dirt in his face.”
As for future plans, Jerkens said, “I wouldn’t rule out a mile, a one-turn mile at Belmont. It will be tough to get him to rate after this, sending him out of there like a Quarter Horse, but I think he is pretty sensible and you can shut him down in the mornings, if you want. You definitely need to look at the [GI] Met Mile [June 10] for sure with his easy speed. Belmont can be so speed-favoring, especially in the spring time, and you can get a little further than you would otherwise. [The Met] would be a big race to go for, for sure.”
Chad Summers, trainer of runner-up Mind Your Biscuits, was pleased with his charge.
“Unified is a really nice horse,” the conditioner said. “Let’s take nothing away from him. He ran a great race. He got away on an early lead. I thought our horse ran great. Like I’ve said, our end goal is Dubai a month from today.”
An impressive debut winner in Hallandale this time last year, Unified followed suit with a victory in the GIII Bay Shore S. over a muddy seven furlongs at Aqueduct Apr. 9 and scored a narrow victory when stretched to 1 1/8 miles in the GII Peter Pan S. going one turn at Belmont May 14. Hammered down to 1-5 favoritism for his two-turn debut in Monmouth’s GIII Pegasus S. June 19, the local prep for the GI Haskell Invitational S., the $325,000 FTSAUG buy failed to fire, finishing a non-factor fifth, and was subsequently shelved.