“He’s just all heart. This horse is all heart.”

That was Canadian trainer MARTIN DREXLER after Elliott Logan’s SPIRIT ANIMAL (10-to-1) fended off the very good geldings Conglomerate and Fly the W to win the $75,000 City of Light Handicap at Gulfstream Park on January 28. It was a fascinating win by the dark bay eight-year-old by Lemon Drop Kid, who was recently a stable buddy with Conglomerate, a former Drexler trainee (also by Lemon Drop Kid).

Carrying six less pounds than Conglomerate, who won the Grade 3 Valedictory Stakes at Woodbine for Gary Barber and trainer Mark Casse in December, Spirit Animal settled in fifth behind a solid pace set by longshot The Best Distance before advancing on the far turn under Edwin Gonzalez. The Drexler trainee was taken four-wide leaving the turn into the stretch, one path inside an approaching Conglomerate. Fly the W, carrying 125 pounds after winning six of his last eight starts, kicked to the lead in mid-stretch after stalking the pace but was unable to hold off Spirit Animal, who was just able to hold off Conglomerate at the wire.

The 1 1/8 mile time on Tapeta was 1:48.03 for a 90 Beyer Speed Figure.

The result was a bit of revenge of sorts for Drexler, who had lost Conglomerate, whom he claimed for $12,500 in Feb. 2022 at Gulfstream, for $50,000 claiming just a few starts before he won the Valedictory.

Spirit Animal is another Drexler specialty who has come back to his best form after tumbling down to low claiming. A $120,000 yearling, Spirit Animal raced for Klaravich Stable early in his career and won second time out for trainer Chad Brown, who also trained Conglomerate early in his career. In his third career race, Spirit Animal had a horrendous journey in the Pilgrim Stakes (G3) at Belmont Park and finished fifth. He then won three nice races on the turf in New York before heading to Del Mar for the Seabiscuit Stakes (G2) in Nov. 2020. He had another troubled trip and landed seventh.

While the horse returned to action in the Grade 1 Kilroe Mile in March, 2021 at Santa Anita and was only beaten 3 3/4 lengths, he suddenly popped up in August at Saratoga for $25,000 claiming. He was claimed by Go-To-Toga Racing but did not win in 10 races for that barn.

Last February, Drexler claimed the gelding for just $10,000 for Logan’s TEC Stable. In eight starts for Logan and Drexler, Spirit Animal has five wins and earnings of over $175,000 (US).

“I played around with ideas of running him shorter or putting him on turf, ” said Drexler. “And this [City of Light Handicap]  sat there and just sat there, and I said, ‘You know what? Conglomerate is in there, Fly the W is in there. If he can beat these horses, he’ll be doing well.’”

Earlier on Sunday, Logan and Drexler also won with Ontario-bred NINETY FOUR EXPOS, a son of Outwork – Simply Good by Sky Classic. Bred by Robert Marzilli, Ninety Four Expos led all the way to take a turf race at 1 1/16 miles with a career-best 77 Beyer Figure. Logan purchased Ninety Four Expos from the 2023 August Fasig-Tipton Digital sale for $50,000. This was the second start for Ninety Four Expos for his new owner following a 27-length loss in October in a Tapeta sprint.