Pennsylvania-Bred Nimitz Class Upstages Gunite In Parx Dirt Mile

Multiple Grade 1 winner Gunite looked on the way to his fourth victory of the year in Saturday’s $300,000 Parx Dirt Mile until Thomas Coulter’s homebred Nimitz Class closed well down the lane to upset the heavy favorite by 1 3/4 lengths.

Nimitz Class won the Dirt Mile in 1:38.34 over the Parx Racing main track rated as sloppy (sealed).

The Pennsylvania-bred colt by Munnings, trained by Bruce Kravets, was making his 20th start and eighth of the year off a runner-up finish in the Aug. 21 Storm Cat Stakes at Parx. The Dirt Mile was his fifth victory of the year, and second win at Parx from three starts.

Gunite, under Tyler Gafflione, sat a stalking trip from the gate and allowed Mish to take the field of seven down the backside through an opening quarter mile in :23.84. Mish galloped content on the lead under Tyler Conner and together they clocked a half in :47.59 with Gunite still in contention. Nimitz Class drew closer under Paco Lopez and steadily found themselves in contention turning for home.

Gunite controlled the lead following six furlongs in 1:12.45 and led into the stretch as Mish began to tire. Gunite, urged for more, was met by Nimitz Class to his outside, and the latter wrested the lead from Gunite and was clear to the wire.

Gunite held second over Mish, who bested the rest for third. Dr B, Civil War, and Dr Ardito completed the field.

Nimitz Class, bred by Coulter’s Arrowwood Farm from the Flatter mare Five Diamonds, returned $15 to win.

Parx Dirt Mile Quotes:

Winning trainer Bruce Kravets: “He is awesome. This horse gives you everything he has every time you put a bridle on him. Even the last three times when he was second he got beat by legitimate horses. Maybe one of the three I thought we should have won. We decided to make the rider change and it proved to be the right move.

One of the highlights of your career? “Tremendous win. Not one of, the highlight of my career. The horse looks great, trained great coming into the race. We were going to run on a fast track, slop, it didn’t matter. He never misses a beat.”

Winning jockey Paco Lopez: “Really lucky; he liked the track, the slop. Not too many horses are liking the track. You have to be lucky today and on the right one. Some of them are really running on it and some of them aren’t. He was very, very comfortable the whole way. The pace was right and he was liking the track. I was inside on the first turn and on the second I went to the outside and he ran by a nice horse.”

Winning owner Thomas Coulter: “In the beginning we didn’t really have quite enough speed to keep up with those two sprinters, but once they got on the backstretch he kept getting stronger and he was pulling the jockey toward the front. At the end he just pulled away. He looked super. We had some tough times this summer. He kept finishing second [three straight races], but I think today all the conditions lined up for him and he ran a great race.”

On running on a sloppy track: “I knew he would handle the track. That wasn’t a concern. There are always concerns. It was a step up in class. He was carrying more weight than the other horses (co-high weight of 126 pounds). A lot of concerns. But he never had any concerns. He just went out there and did it.”

On taking on 1-5 favorite Gunite: “It seems to me Gunite’s a little better at six and seven furlongs. So, I thought with this horse’s closing punch it was a possibility. He’d be close and it was a possibility. So, we tried.”

Jockey Tyler Gaffalione (Gunite, second): “He handled the track. This was our third time trying a mile and I guess it’s just not his best distance. He traveled to the quarter pole in great form. I really thought we were just going to go on. He just came up a little short for us today. Some of his best races are in the slop; he handles the slop just fine. I am still not convinced that the mile is too far. It’s just something about the two turns doesn’t work with him.”

Trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. (Mish, third): “His best option is going to the lead and that is how we were going to play it if he broke and he broke well. He ran his race. I can’t complain.”

Surprised at the winner?: “Yeah. Gunite got beat. It was his race to lose. He obviously is not as good going two turns as he is one turn. That’s horse racing. You have to go out there and do it.”