With a full stakes schedule mapped out for his sophomore campaign including Canada's $1 million Pepsi North America Cup, Ohio champion Gulf Shores prepped for his return to the racetrack in Sunday afternoon's qualifiers at Scioto Downs.
The Brian Brown trainee sat third through early fractions of :31 and 1:01 before sweeping to command for driver Cameron McCown and beginning to pull away from early leader Fear No More, a Buckeye Stallion Series winner last year, past three-quarters in 1:29.1. Gulf Shores opened up six lengths through the stretch and held off the resurgent Virgil Morgan-trained Fear No More by a neck in 1:56.4, with his final quarter in :27.3. The unraced three-year-old Sneaky Hill finished less than a length behind in third for Morgan.
Gulf Shores, who took his mark of 1:51.3 at Scioto while dominating his Ohio Sire Stakes division last summer, was just a nose shy of winning the Breeders Crown at the end of the year. The Downbytheseaside colt earned six wins and three seconds from 10 starts while banking close to $500,000 in purses for owners Country Club Acres Inc., Crossover Racing and Wingfields Brother LLC.
Gulf Shores is among the top 10 ranked North America Cup eligibles, assessed as the sixth choice at odds of 10-1 in TROT Magazine's Spring Book.