By Sarah Mace
Putting her signature late running style to excellent use, Empire Equines homebred Fifty Five earned her first graded stakes victory Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs, scoring a well-timed last-to-first victory in stakes-record time under Jose Ortiz in the 34th running of the Grade 3, $200,000 Florida Oaks at 1 1/16 miles on turf.
In her first four career starts, the bay daughter of Get Stormy had done nothing wrong. Following a third-place debut effort at Belmont on October 13, she broke her maiden for trainer Tom Bush at Aqueduct going 1 1/16 miles on turf on November 16; on New Year’s Day she captured an allowance at the same trip at Gulfstream Park. Making her stakes debut in the Grade 3 Sweetest Chant at Gulfstream on February 4, the filly came flying late from last, finishing third, only three-quarters of length behind the winner.
After breaking cleanly in the Florida Oaks, Fifty Five, who was third betting choice at odds of 4-1, settled down last of eight, working her way over to the two-path from post six by the time the field exited the chute. She comfortably rounded the first turn and loped along down the backstretch as much as 15 lengths off the lead. Meanwhile while 34-1 longshot Like a Hurricane set speedy early splits of 22.83, 46.90 and 1:12.09.
Fifty Five advanced a spot entering the far turn and, when asked, picked off all but four rivals in the bend.
Making made her way out into the five path for clear running in upper stretch, she shadowed 4-5 favorite La Coronel just to her inside in the sprint to the wire. With perfectly-timed momentum, Fifty Five cruised past her rival in the final strides to win by a neck.
After a mile in 1:35.68, Fifty Five’s final time for the mile-and-a-sixteenth on turf of 1:41.60 set a stakes record, eclipsing the mark of 1:41.89 set in 2013 by Tapicat.
Said jockey Jose Ortiz, “[Trainer Tom Bush] just told me to keep patient and when you ask her, she is going to give you a big run. I just tried to follow [La Coronel] because I knew she was going to be tough, and as soon as we passed the eighth pole, I knew we had a decent chance to win.”
Owner/breeder John Crowe who, with his wife Sandy, races under the banner of Empire Equines, seems to get plenty of thrills from Fifty Five’s running style. “[Fifty Five]’s a heartthrob, because she always comes from behind like that,” said Crowe. “When [jockey Jose Ortiz] took her back early, I thought ‘She’s done this before.’ But when they turned for home, I said ‘Get her moving, get her moving.’”
Bush commented, “The [fast early] fractions helped us quite a bit, but she did move up on the backside with the rest of the field and was in pretty good shape.”
Added Bush, “It’s a terrific feeling. She just won a graded stakes and has improved every time we’ve run her, and you can’t ask more from a horse than that.”
Fifty Five, who was foaled at Berkshire Stud in Pine Plains, is one of two winners out of John and Sandy Crowe stakes-placed homebred mare Soave, who died earlier this year. Soave was by Brahms out of New York-bred Cozzene mare Cozzekiki.
Fifty Five, a $24,000 RNA at the 2015 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October yearling sales is is Get Stormy’s first stakes winner. She now sports a record of three wins and two thirds from five starts and has earned $162,600.