Six-year-old Hymn Book notched the biggest win of his career by fighting off Mission Impazible to win the Grade I Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park in Florida on February 11th. Hymn Book’s jockey, John Velasquez, had a big day as he rode in three other victories on the afternoon.
Hymn Book has had a long career of racing on both dirt and turf tracks and previously had finished just behind the winner in graded stakes races such as the Suburban Handicap and the Cigar Mile Handicap as a five-year-old in 2011. Eleven thoroughbreds started the Donn Handicap, including the undefeated Trickmeister, and last year’s Preakness champion, Shackleford.
Early in the race, Trickmeister was leading and in control with Shakckleford trailing in second, just ahead of Redeemed and Mission Impazible. Hymn Book trailed the pack and swung out wide. The race held competitive for the top four, as it looked as if the lead pack would pull away from the rest of the field. It was at the first turn when Hymn Book was able to start making a push and then moved into the lead pack. At the final turn the leaders were running four wide, with Hymn Book just trailing on the outside as there was a crunch for room.
Down the stretch, Mission Impazible was in great shape, having rode the rail for most of the race and getting a nice opening to eye the finish line. But Redeemed and Hymn Book shifted their positions and charged hard at the front-runner. Redeemed challenged, but couldn’t quite keep the pace going. Hymn Book fought and was able to pull up to Mission Impazible for the last 100 yards of the race, just nosing him out in a thrilling finish.
The winner’s time was 1:49.16, and he was followed by Mission Impazible, Redeemed, and Where’s Sterling. The previously unbeaten Trickmeister finished sixth and the favorite, Shackleford, finished a non-threatening seventh. With the victory, Hymn Book has now finished “in the money” twelve times in fourteen starts.