By Sarah Mace
Under a patient ride by Paco Lopez, William Parsons, Jr. and David S. Howe’s homebred Summersault stretched out successfully to 1 3/8 miles in her graded stakes debut Saturday to post a big victory in Gulfstream Park’s Grade 3, $200,000 Orchid Stakes on turf.
The 5-year-old daughter of Rock Hard Ten was in career form for her twenty-second lifetime start. In allowance optional claiming races on December 16 and February 4 at Gulfstream, the closer had posted game victories at 1 3/16 miles and 1 1/16 miles respectively. Paco Lopez, the winning pilot for both races, had the call for the Orchid from trainer Mark Hennig.
The longshot selection of the field at odds of 9-1, Summersault spent the first three quarters of a mile of the three-turn tilt loping along in fourth place as much as 12 lengths off the lead and saving ground. Meanwhile eager French import Maquette (2-1) led the way through testing fractions of 23.47, 46.12 and 1:10.54, a couple lengths ahead of 4-5 favorite Olorda. Quiet Kitten chased in third.
Summersault closed ground on the frontrunners at the rail while rounding the third turn. She gained third position, while shifting off the fence and embarking on her drive three-wide.
As the pacesetter gave way, she advanced into second outside new leader Olorda in midstretch and poked her head in front just past the sixteenth pole. Summersault kept to business, securing her victory by three-quarters of a length under a strong hand ride. Quiet Kitten nosed Temple Fur for the show.
“I know [pacesetter Maquette] was going very, very fast,” said Paco Lopez. “My filly is always running a little more close, but I don’t push. At the half-mile/five-eighths, I ask my filly. She was coming and coming. She finished very well.”
Trainer Mark Hennig offered the following observation: “If you go back to the one meet [in 2015] that the turf was real hard at Saratoga she won two races. When she can hear her feet rattle over it, she does well.”
Hennig continued, “I was concerned about it a little when the field spread out, because when she finds daylight and is by herself she’ll kind of lose focus. I thought Paco was good and patient with her. Once he got up in behind them, I got more confident.”
Foaled at Cedar Ridge Farm in Pine Plains, Summersault is one of four winners from four foals to start out of Saratoga Summer, a placed Kentucky-bred turf runner by Smart Strike. She last changed hands in 2009 when purchased by McMahon Bloodstock for $67,000 at the Keeneland November sale. Saratoga Summer has a 2-year-old filly by Broken Vow named Summer Squeeze, an unnamed yearling Mineshaft filly and was bred to Union Rags in 2016.
Summersault has come a long way since breaking her maiden at ninth asking at Saratoga in 2015. She followed up with an allowance victory during the same meet and over time marched steadily through her conditions, only making one previous foray into stakes company, when she ran eleventh in the 2016 Mount Vernon. The Orchid win boosts Summersault’s career earnings to $374,983. From 22 starts, she has recorded six wins, five seconds and three thirds.