Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Gulfstream Looms as Glory Road

 by Jim Freer                                                                                                                 29-Jan-14

  The fast and impressive wins by Cairo Prince and Top Billing last Saturday left many racing fans thinking  that “the road to the Kentucky Derby will go through Gulfstream Park” this year.
Meanwhile, the road to glory for 3-year-old sprinters is forming and Gulfstream will have an important stop this Saturday with the $200,000 Hutcheson Stakes (Grade 2).
  On Monday, trainer Jose Garoffalo said he will enter his speedy Wildcat Red in the seven-furlong Hutcheson. Garoffalo said that Wildcat Red has recovered from a cold that kept him out of  last Saturday’s 1 1/16 mile Holy Bull Stakes (Grade 2) at Gulfstream.
Wildcat Red might have been the fourth or fifth betting choice in the $400,000  Holy Bull, which Cairo Prince won by 5 ¾ lengths over the late-running Conquest Titan.
Wildcat Red’s last race was the Gulfstream Park Derby,  a one-turn  mile on Jan. 1.  He lost  by  a head to General a Rod after a lengthy  stretch  duel.

  Entries for the $200,000 Hutcheson will be drawn late Wednesday afternoon.  Corfu, Trail Blaze, Mighty Brown  and  Cool Cowboy are among  probable starters  in what looms  as a strong and deep field. On Friday, Inside Florida Horse Racing will have a preview of the Hutcheson.

  First, let’s review Cairo Prince’s dominant win in the Holy Bull and Top Billing’s  come-from-behind victory in a 1 1/16  mile allowance. Cairo Prince might be the Kentucky Derby favorite if it were run today. He has won three of four starts. His only loss was by a nose to Honor Code last Nov. 30 in the  1 1/8 mile Remsen (Grade 2) at Aqueduct.
  Cairo Prince is a son of  Pioneer of the Isle. That horse finished second in the 2009 Kentucky Derby,  won by 50-1 shot  Mine That Bird. Top Billing is less-experienced than most of the Holy Bull runners and his next race will be  his first stakes.  But some observers think he has talent, breeding and stamina that could get him to the winner’s circle at Churchill Downs on May 3.

* Holy Bull -- Cairo Prince showed the ability  to rate off a fast pace set by Coup  de Grace and Almost Famous. They hit six furlongs  in 1:10.30, with Almost Famous leading Mr. Speaker by a half  length and Cairo Prince another 1 ½ lengths back in third place. Cairo Prince, ridden by Luis Saez, began  accelerating.  He took the lead at the top of the stretch  and powered  home unchallenged, with Saez making sure to give him some taps with  the whip.
In the Remsen, Cairo Prince  appeared to lose some interest when he took the lead. He wound up getting nipped at the wire by Honor Code.
  Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin criticized Saez after the Remsen,  but kept him on the horse.
Cairo Prince won the  Holy Bull in 1:42.16,  the third fastest time for 1 1/16 miles  on  dirt at Gulfstream since it resumed races at that distance in 2012. Cairo Prince “had a  beautiful trip” and  “made a statement,” McLaughlin said.
  Conquest Titan and third place finisher Intense Holiday rallied from 11th  and 10th  place respectively after a half  mile and could have big  potential in upcoming  stakes races of 1 1/8 miles or longer. But in the Holy Bull, it appeared  that neither would catch Cairo Prince no matter the distance.

  Almost Famous finished fourth.  He led briefly coming out of the turn, and fought on until tiring in the final 50 yards. He could have a  strong  future as a miler.
*  Top Billing’s win -- Top Billing came into Saturday’s race with a win in his debut at Laurel Park  in Maryland on Dec. 6 and a second by a neck to the highly regarded Commissioner  in  a 1 1/8 mile allowance on Jan. 3 at Gulfstream. The son of two-time Eclipse Horse of  the Year Curlin was last after a half mile in those  races and on Saturday. In Saturday’s race,  he  made his move on the outside and beat early leader Surfing  U.S.A. by 2  ¾ lengths.
  Top Billing won  under jockey Joel Rosario in 1:42.66--exactly  one-half second slower than  Cairo Prince.

  Trainer Shug McGaughey said Top Billing’s next race will be a stakes.
It probably won’t be the 1 1/8 mile Fountain of Youth (Grade 2) at Gulfstream on  Feb. 22.  McGaughey  also trains Honor Code, and  is pointing  that  horse toward the Fountain of Youth.
“Our plan is to keep them apart as long as possible,” McGaughey  said following Top Billing’s win on Saturday. Top Billing was slow in growing and maturing last summer. Thus, McGaughey did not race him until December. He showed similar patience last year with Orb. That  horse went on to win the  Fountain of Youth, Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby.
One sure bet is that there will soon be more comparisons of Top Billing and Orb, who also was a closer. Later this week, Inside Florida Horse Racing will  look at where Cairo Prince and Top billing  might be headed next on the Kentucky Derby trail.

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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Preview Week for 3-Year-Olds at Gulfstream Park

Preview Week for 3-Year-Olds at Gulfstream
by Jim Freer


All Thoroughbred horses born in North America in 2011 will turn 3-years-old for racing New Year's Day, and nine of them are scheduled to run in what Gulfstream Park calls "the first Derby of the year."

That New Year’s Day race is the $100,000 Gulfstream Park Derby, a one-turn mile on the dirt.

It is the first of three much-anticipated races for 3-year-olds at Gulfstream during the first four days of 2014.

On Friday, Gulfstream will host a 1-1/8 mile dirt allowance with several highly touted horses that will be making just their second or third starts.

On Saturday, look for the $100,000 Spectacular Bid Stakes at six furlongs on dirt.

Best Plan Yet, Pablo Del Monte, Commissioner, Top Billing and Giancarlo are among horses with big chances in this week’s races.

Any horses that win or put in other strong showings could be pointed by their trainers toward Gulfstream’s graded stakes - capped by the $1 million Florida Derby on March 29 - and the trail toward the May 3rd Kentucky Derby.

*The Gulfstream Park Derby is Wednesday’s ninth race, with a scheduled 4:33 p.m. post time.

Best Plan Yet comes into the race with three stakes wins, all at one mile or longer, at Calder Casino & Race Course, and is the probable favorite.

He is trained by Stanley Gold and owned by Fred Brei. They are prominent for developing Awesome Feather, Jackson Bend and Fort Loudon - three horses that began their careers at Calder and became national stars.

Best Plan Yet has a late running style that could be a plus in a race with several speedsters.

Two speed horses that will attract some bettors are Pablo Del Monte, trained by Wesley Ward, and Aarons Orient, trained by Todd Pletcher. Both will be racing in Florida for the first time.

Wildcat Red and Gone as Wind had impressive recent races at Gulfstream, and it would not be a shock if either wins the Gulfstream Park Derby.

Itsmyluckyday won the race on Jan. 1, 2013 and went on to win the Holy Bull at Gulfstream and finish second in the Preakness Stakes.

*The Friday allowance has a $48,750 purse, a ninth race; post time 4:33 p.m.

Commissioner and Top Billing are part of an eight-horse field. Both have star-studded breeding and are attracting attention in Kentucky Derby futures betting pools.

Commissioner has a second place finish and a win in two career starts. The victory, in his most recent race, was at 1-1/8 miles at Saratoga on Aug. 23.

He is a son of A.P. Indy, the 1992 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner. Jose Lezcano will ride for trainer Todd Pletcher.

Top Billing was an eye-popping winner in his first race - at six furlongs in the slop at Laurel Park on Dec. 6th. He rallied from far back, split through a pack of horses in mid stretch and won by 5 ¼ lengths.

Top Billing is a son of Curlin, the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner. Trainer Shug McGaughey has tapped Joel Rosario to ride.

McGaughey trained Orb, last year’s Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby winner. Orb began his season by winning a 1-1/8 mile allowance at Gulfstream on Jan. 23rd.

*As of Tuesday morning, entries were not out for the Spectacular Bid.

Giancarlo, a recent impressive winner in a six-furlong maiden race at Calder, is probable and could be the betting favorite.

Later in January at Gulfstream, several early-line Kentucky Derby favorites will make their first 2014 starts.

Honor Code, trained by McGaughey, heads that list along with Havana and Cairo Prince. On Nov. 16th Honor Code won the Remsen Stakes (Grade 2) at Aqueduct at 1-1/8 miles.

Shared Belief, who is racing in California, is first on most analysts’ lists of Kentucky Derby contenders.

Four of the last eight Kentucky derby winners prepared with races at Gulfstream. They are Barbaro (2006), Big Brown (2008), Animal Kingdom (2011) and Orb (2013)