BY BROCK SHERIDAN
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL—Seminole Chief wore down 1-5 favorite Bentornato in deep stretch to win the $300,000 FTBOA Florida Sire Stakes In Reality on Dec. 2 at Gulfstream Park at odds of 12-1, validating trainer Jack Sisterson’s long range strategy with the Florida-bred colt.
Ridden by Paco Lopez for owners Brad Grady of Grandview, Tex., and David Grund of Chicago, Seminole Chief was the best of seven 2-year-olds by registered Florida stallions who went a mile-and-a-sixteenth in the third leg of the series.
After training at Sisterson’s Saratoga barn during the summer, Seminole Chief started his career with an eight-length victory in a five-furlong maiden special weight at Finger Lakes Racetrack in Farmington, N.Y. on Sept. 11.
“This is about development. If a horse doesn’t win a race, he doesn’t move forward,” Sisterson said after the In Reality victory. “[Seminole Chief] trained great at Saratoga. But was he good enough to win first time at Saratoga? Probably not. So I said we’ll take this horse to Finger Lakes. The prize money is not as much, but this is about a bigger picture. He’s a Florida-bred, so I wanted to get his confidence going in the right direction and then come down for the [Florida Sire Stakes].”
After dominating in his first start as Sisterson hoped, Seminole Chief disappointed in the $200,000 FTBOA Florida Sire Stakes Affirmed going seven furlongs at Gulfstream Park on Oct. 21, finishing sixth under jockey Sonny Leon, 12 ½ lengths behind winner Bentornato.
But Sisterson saw enough promise that he thought some minor changes may move the colt forward in the In Reality.
“Sonny Leon said [after the Affirmed] this is a nice horse. Once he got dirt kicked in his face, he dropped out of it. But once he got clear, he came running again. So I said, let’s shoot for the $300,000 [In Reality] on Dec. 2.
“I put blinkers on him and tried to keep him in the clear and he was game today.”
Seminole Chief broke well in the In Reality and ran to the outside of frontrunning Mattingly, who had finished second in the Affirmed, around the far turn with Bentornato tracking those two from third through the first quarter-mile in :23.43.
As instructed by Sisterson, Lopez kept Seminole Chief in the clear, racing four-wide down the backstretch and a half-length off of Mattingly in front through a :46.69 half-mile.
Jockey Emisael Jaramillo sent Bentornato at Mattingly and Seminole Chief around the far turn and those three hit the top of the stretch together. Mattingly dropped back and it appeared Bentornato might get the lead in midstretch. A determined Seminole Chief eventually pulled away to win a half-length ahead of a late-running Secret Lover in second in a final time of 1:45.59 on the fast track.
Bentornato finished another half-length back in third as Mattingly, Lasso, Cajun Fool and Brawn completed the order of finish.
Seminole Chief paid $27 to win. He was longest shot to win the In Reality since Reprized Halo defeated 3-5 favorite Gourmet Dinner at odds of 46-1 in 2010 and paid $94.60.
Seminole Chief has now won two of three career starts and the $180,000 first-place check increased his lifetime bankroll to $195,960. Bred in Florida by Brad and Misty Grady, Seminole Chief is by Girvin out of Secret Song, by Dunkirk.
Secret Song has four winners from six foals and Seminole Chief is her first stakes winner. Secret Song has an unnamed yearling filly, who is a full sister to Seminole Chief, and she was bred to Girvin again in 2023.
Seminole Chief was sent through the Ocala Breeders’ Sales June Sale by consignor Bobby Dodd and eventually sold for $80,000 to HND Bloodstock for Brad Grady.
But it took some determination from Sisterson and Grund to partner with Brady Grady, who had purchased him.
“I was working the sale with Justin Casse and I was actually flying to England for my best friends’ wedding,” Sisterson said. “I think we bid $75,000 as the phone cut out and we didn’t get him. So Mr. Grund said ‘oh no, he’s a nice horse.” So I asked Justin if would find out who bought the horse and find out if we could potentially buy the horse. So Brad [Grady] and Mr. Grund came to an agreement and here we are now.
“I have to give a lot credit to Mr. Grund.”
Grund, however, was just as quick to praise Sisterson.
“Jack Sisterson is a fantastic trainer. He is a great communicator and makes owning horses a lot of fun,” Grund said.
“This victory means a lot. Winning a Florida Sire Stakes race in a penultimate moment for me and I’ve had a lot of horses and won a lot of races. We just love Florida.”