Gulfstream Park

(Jockey Luis Saez / Photo Courtesy of Keeneland)

From the Gulfstream Park Media Team:

Helen K. Grove’s Just Whistle took a giant step toward finally living up to his potential Sunday, capturing his first career stakes in the $75,000 Sunday Silence at Gulfstream Park.

The 5-year-old son of Pioneerof the Nile, who was graded stakes-placed at 3 during a career marked by interruptions, outfought 3-5 favorite Spinoff nearing the finish to prevail by a neck in the 1 1/16-mile stakes for 4-year-olds and up.

Just Whistle had shown ability in graded-stakes races, including a third-place finish in the 2018 Peter Pan (G3) in his third career start, but has really stepped forward at Gulfstream Park in recent starts. After coming off a nine-month layoff to finish fourth in a Feb 29 optional claiming allowance, the Michael Matz trainee finished a strong second in the Hal’s Hope (G3) while racing with blinkers for the first time to set up his initial stakes victory Sunday.

“It’s nice to see him win a stakes finally. Hopefully, we can get a nice 5-year-old season out of him with a little bit of consistency,” said Matz, who trained Just Whistle’s dam, Grade 1 stakes-placed And Why Not.

Just Whistle ($10.40) settled in fifth behind the early pace set by Wind of Change, who showed the way past fractions of 23.54 and 46.77 seconds over a sloppy main track during the first half-mile.

Spin Off, the odds-on choice ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., chased the pacesetter along the backstretch before moving three-wide on the turn into the stretch and drifting very wide into the stretch.

Just Whistle, who also launched his bid on the far turn under Luis Saez, was carried extremely wide by the favorite heading into the stretch. Spin Off took over the lead from a tiring Wind of Change in early stretch but was unable to hold off Just Whistle, who responded to his Saez’s strong handling..

“We knew we didn’t have enough speed as a couple of the other horses in there. We were hoping he would run them down. The big thing about him is once you get him started, you can’t change your mind,” Matz said.

“We told Luis to swing him out and stay in a nice rhythm with him. He’s not a hard horse to ride, he’s just a lazy horse to ride. Every jockey that’s ridden him comes back and says, ‘Oh my God, I had to ride him the whole way.’ Luis is probably as strong a jockey as you’d like to have, so he was a good guy for him.”

Just Whistle ran the 1 1/16 miles in 1:50.71.

“It was very good trip, like we planned. He’s a big horse, a one-run horse. I can’t go with him early, because I know if I go with him, he won’t finish. The plan was to be behind the race and make one run,” Matz said. “It was tough, but we got him [Spin Off].

Spin Off, finished two lengths clear of Eye of a Jedi.