Martini Glass earns first graded stakes win with Royal Delta

Martini Glass the Royal Delta credit Leslie Martin4HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Former claimer Martini Glass became a graded stakes winner for the first time after wearing down the 4-5 Lewis Bay to upset the Grade 3 Royal Delta, the highlight of Monday’s special 12-race holiday program at Gulfstream Park.

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Martini Glass was haltered out of her career debut by owner-trainer Keith Nations for $16,000 at Tampa Bay Downs on February 20, 2016. She gained national attention last summer after finishing second to Songbird in the Grade 1 Delaware Handicap and further acclaim following her second-place finish behind Romantic Vision three months later in the Grade 1 Spinster.

Martini Glass showed her versatility on opening day of the championship meet when switching to turf to win the Claiming Crown Tiara. She had kept a steady diet of two-turn races coming into the one-mile Royal Delta, most recently finishing a troubled third in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 3 Ladies Classic at Sam Houston.

With regular rider Paco Lopez aboard, Martini Glass saved ground while racing within easy striking distance of early pacesetters Lewis Bay and Curlin’s Approval. Martini Glass tipped three wide to commence her rally approaching the stretch before getting clear by a length at the end.

Lewis Bay, winner of the Grade 3 Rampart here coming off a 13-month layoff in her 2017 finale, contested the pace inside Curlin’s Approval, shook free turning for home but could not resist the winner while easily second-best, 3 1/4 lengths in front of the slow-starting and wide-running Verve’s Tale. Curlin’s Approval, racing without front shoes for the first time, prompted the issue to the stretch before coming up empty at that point, ultimately checking home a tiring and disappointing fifth in the field of eight older fillies and mares.

Martini Glass, a 5-year-old daughter of Kitalpha, is owned in partnership by Nations and Vince Campanella. She covered the distance over a fast track in 1:36.48 and paid $18.40.

“To be where we are with her right now is amazing,” Nations said. “We were just thrilled to death to run second to Songbird. That just made our whole year. And she’s just moved forward and gotten better. Though she maybe could have won one or two of those other stakes, but she’s been bothered by troubled starts. She’ll break a little tardy sometimes and get herself in a bad spot. We’ve always been lucky and done pretty well with our claims, but this time we overachieved.”

Nations said some people criticized him for turning her back to a mile for the Royal Delta. But he felt one of her best earlier races was her victory going seven furlongs against starter-allowance competition last spring at Tampa.

“I think she ran seven furlongs in 1:22 and was a tick or two off the track record that day,” Nations said.

“She breezes fast, she does it all within herself, she likes the slop, she likes the turf, there really isn’t anything she doesn’t like.”

Nations, who is stabled at Tampa Bay Downs, said he might stay local for Martini Glass’ next start, putting her back on the turf for the Grade 2 Hillsborough on March 10.