The ground-breaking Tapeta era dawned Thursday at Gulfstream Park, where four races were contested over the newly installed all-weather surface on opening day of the Fall Meet.
Kathleen O'Connell, the second-winningest female trainer in history, notched Win No. 2279 after saddling EMOJI GUY for a victory in Race 1 in the first Tapeta race run in Race 1 at Gulfstream, the very first racetrack with dirt, turf, and all-weather surfaces.
"It means a lot," O'Connell said. "I'm happy for the owners. They've waited for a long time. I just texted them, ‘It's a new track record. Of course, it was the first race run on it."
J S Stables LLC's EMOJI GUY, the 9-5 favorite for the $12,500 claiming race for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/16 miles, was timed in 1:48.08 in his all-weather debut under Edwin Gonzalez.
"He was good and comfortable. The horse really liked it," said Gonzalez, who has ridden on all-weather tracks at Golden Gate, Presque Isle, and Arlington. "You have to ride it like the turf. I wanted to make one move and I was pretty happy where he was."
Gonzalez, who made a three-wide sweep to the lead on the far turn aboard EMOJI GUY, expressed his satisfaction with the going on the Tapeta track and his belief that the surface will become tighter as time goes by.
"It's good. I have to tell you, they did a really good job. Right now, it's good, and when the tractors start working it more, it's going to be better."
EMOJI GUY won for the first time in eight starts, seven on turf, since breaking his maiden on turf.
"He's pretty much an all-terrain model, so I wasn't so much worried about him," O'Connell said. "Some of the others I do worry about. I spent a couple of seasons at Presque Isle. Not all of them that like the turf like the synthetic. I've had some dirt horses that turned into synthetic specialists. You just have to be in tune with your horse."
A $60,000 maiden special weight for juvenile fillies at 5 ½ furlongs on Tapeta was featured on Thursday's program. Saffie Joseph Jr.-trained STRATEGY QUEEN, who had shown promised in two starts on dirt, broke through with a deep-closing triumph under Cristian Torres in the Race 5 feature.
"Her dad won three times on it. Her sister won on it and her other sister won on turf. We put a horse on it we thought would like it," Joseph said. "Cristian said, at first, she was a little green, but there was no kick-back and she was able to maintain her position. One of the things about Tapeta is you don't get dirt in your face. I think that's why some turf horses run on it better than they do on dirt."
The daughter of FED BIZ had finished second in her most recent start after dueling from the start of the six-furlong $50,000 maiden claimer.
WOW TAPIT, a daughter of CAIRO PRINCE who finished third in her second career start in a recent off-the-turf sprint, took to the Tapeta to graduate in Race 3, a 5 ½-furlong maiden race for juvenile fillies. The Amador Sanchez-trained filly led throughout to score by 3 ½ lengths under Hector Berrios.
Monarch Stables Inc.'s LIGHT FURY transferred his winning form on turf to the Tapeta in Race 7, an about-a-mile-and-70-yard optional claiming allowance. The Ron Spatz-trained son of WICKED STRONG, the 6-5 favorite ridden by Samy Camacho, chased VOW ME NOW into the stretch before taking the lead and holding on to win by a half-length. LIGHT FURY was winless in eight starts on dirt before winning five times and finishing in the money nine times in 10 races on turf.
Five races will be run on the Tapeta track on Friday's nine-race program that will get underway at 12:50 p.m. Races 5, 7 and 9 will be included in the 20-cent Rainbow 6 sequence that will span Races 4-9. The Rainbow 6 jackpot pool will be guaranteed at $350,000.
The popular multi-race wager went unsolved Thursday for the 11th racing day since a Sept. 10 mandatory payout produced multiple payoffs of $313,299.84
The Rainbow 6 jackpot is paid out when there is a single unique ticket sold with all six winners. On days when there is no unique ticket, 70 percent of that day's pool goes back to those bettors holding tickets with the most winners, while 30 percent is carried over to the jackpot pool.