HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. -- Chris Block has won only three races with his small south Florida-based contingent this winter, but the Illinois-based trainer has certainly made the most of those victories, each of which has come in a graded stakes.
Never Retreat became the latest graded stakes winner for Team Block, parlaying an absolutely dream trip under jockey Julien Leparoux into a one-length victory over Persuading in Saturday's $100,000 Honey Fox at Gulfstream Park.
Block added the Grade 3 Honey Fox to his earlier victories this winter with Giant Oak in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap and Askbut I Won'ttell in Calder's Grade 3 My Charmer.
Never Retreat had gradually been working her way toward a graded stakes victory, having finished third in the Grade 3 Marshua's River and second behind Cherokee Queen in the Grade 3 Suwannee River earlier in the meet. In the Honey Fox, she sat much closer to the pace than usual, tracking front-runner Persuading from the outset. Never Retreat engaged the leader in early stretch before gradually edging clear through the final furlong.
Persuading, who was second in the Marshua's River and third in the Suwannee River, gained her third graded stakes placing of the season when she held on to finish second, a neck in front of the English-bred Aviate.
Never Retreat, the tepid favorite among a field of 11 older fillies and mares, paid $8 after covering a mile over a firm course in 1:34.24.
"I was a little surprised when she jumped out there the early part of it, I didn't expect that, but she was real comfortable going down the backstretch, and after seeing the opening quarter in 24 I was pretty confident," said Block.
Block said it obviously didn't bother him to learn Cherokee Queen had scratched from the Honey Fox earlier in the afternoon.
"I didn't know she was out until we were coming up for the race," said Block. "I was a little surprised when I heard that but it certainly improved our chances. We brought the right horses here this winter and they have the right races for them here."