HALLANDALE, FLA., FEB. 9 -- Unbeaten Jolie's Halo scored a stunning eight-length victory today in the $500,000 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park.
Sports View won a three-horse photo finish for second and Secret Hello edged Primal for third. Rhythm, the 8-5 favorite, never got close, finishing eighth.
Craig Perret, aboard Rhythm, had no excuses for his mount.
"He just didn't fire," Perret said. "He's done it before. He runs when he wants to . . . and it's not every time."
The Donn was the first race in the inaugural $8.25 million American Championship Racing Series, a 10-race program that will end Sept. 15 with the Woodward Stakes at Belmont Park. Under the ACRS's cumulative point system, Jolie's Halo also earned 10 points and the lead in the chase for the series championship and the $1.5 million bonus pool.
"This looks like a special kind of horse," trainer Happy Alter said after Jolie's Halo ran his career unbeaten streak to five races. "If he wins a few more, he'll be a great horse."
Canada-based Robin Platts, the rider in all five of those victories, said he expected more competition from the field of 12.
"I thought someone would press us," Platts said. "He was moving pretty easy out there. Turning for home I knew we had it. He put it into another gear."
Jolie's Halo was second choice. The 4-year-old son of Halo ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:47 2/5 and paid $7.20.
The race was decided at the five-sixteenths pole. With a sudden acceleration, Jolie's Halo increased his lead to three, then six lengths by the time he passed the quarter pole. He was eight lengths in front in midstretch and the only question was who would finish second; Primal, on the inside, Sports View or Secret Hello, on the outside.
The ACRS is intended to create new stars among oft-forgotten older horses and to keep top horses on the track beyond their 3-year-old campaigns, especially the stars who emerge from the Triple Crown in the spring and are often retired to stud farms the following year.
The next ACRS event is scheduled for March 9, the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap. After a stop at Oaklawn for the Oaklawn Handicap, the tour will return to the East for the $750,000 Pimlico Special.