3 Graded Stakes at Gulfstream on Saturday
From Gulfstream Park:
Divisidero Back on Familiar Turf in Saturday’s G2 Fort Lauderdale
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Gunpowder Farms’ Divisidero has used the Gulfstream Park Turf Course as a springboard to success the past two years. Buff Bradley is hopeful that his Grade 1-winning trainee will kick off yet another lucrative campaign in Saturday’s $200,000 Fort Lauderdale (G2).
“Hopefully, this is going to be a big year for him. We hope to keep him healthy and sound all year and plan the right races for him,” Bradley said.
During the 2015-16 Championship Meet, Divisidero finished third in the Canadian Turf (G3) and second in the Appleton (G3) before attaining Grade 1 status last May with a victory in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day.
“When you have a horse running in graded stakes, you want that Grade 1. From a breeding standpoint, that’s the top of the line,” Bradley said.
Shortly after establishing himself as a solid stallion prospect with his Grade 1 score, the son of Kitten’s Joy went to the sidelines following a fifth-place finish in the Manhattan (G1) at Belmont Park last June.
“He never was lame. We did some bone scans on him and he had a little bone bruising enough where I said to the owners, ‘If we given him some time, he’ll be better.” We knew it was something he’d come back 100 percent from,” Bradley said.
Divisidero returned to Bradley’s stable in November with the Fort Lauderdale a target under optimum circumstances.
“He moved forward pretty quickly in getting ready. He had a pretty good bottom to him when I got him. Each week he’s progressed well. I’m really happy the way he’s come along,” Bradley said. “I think after his last work, he was telling me he was ready. (Jockey) Edgar (Prado) commented after his last two works that he was really strong and felt great. He’s coming into the race fresh, and we feel he’s going to run a big race. He’s more mature both mentally and physically.”
Divisidero launched his career over the Gulfstream turf course with an eye-catching late surge from far back to graduate at first asking. The Kentucky-bred turf star came right back to finish a close-up third in the Palm Beach (G3) before venturing to Churchill Downs to capture the American Turf (G2) in only his third career start. He also captured the $200,000 Pennine Ridge at Belmont during his 3-year-old season.
While Divisidero established himself as a deep closer during his first season, he didn’t drop nearly as far off the pace last season.
“He’s got a little more speed and a little bit more into the race, and he still has a good finish,” said Bradley, who once again named Hall of Famer Edgar Prado to ride Divisidero.
More early interest may better serve Divisidero in the 1 1/16-mile Fort Lauderdale, which attracted 12 entries, including 2016 victor Heart to Heart and Flatlined, who finished 1-2, respectively, in the recent El Prado at Gulfstream, as well as 2016 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1) winner Luke’s Alley.
Terry Hamilton’s Heart to Heart registered a front-running triumph in last year’s Fort Lauderdale, defeating a late-closing Luke’s Alley by a half-length. The 6-year-old son of English Channel also posted a front running score in the Appleton, defeating Divisidero by 2 ½ lengths.
Heart to Heart came off a subpar fourth-place finish in the Artie Schiller at Aqueduct in November to score a front-running victory in the El Prado under Julien Leparoux, who has the return mount Saturday.
Flatlined, who finished with a late surge to fall a neck short of catching Heart to Heart in the 7 ½-furlong El Prado, is slated to return in the Fort Lauderdale. Owned by Brian Hytrek, Rodney Paden and Ryan Kuhn, the 5-year-old son of Flatter, who broke his maiden at Gulfstream early during the Championship Meet last year, captured the $150,000 Old Friends Stakes at Kentucky Downs last fall.
“The Flatters get better as they get older. He’s 5 now and he’s as good as he can be right now. He’s more or less improved in every race I’ve run him in,” trainer Scooter Dickey said.
Joe Bravo has the return mount aboard Flatlined.
“Joe was really high on him after the [El Prado]. He’d never been on him,” Dickey said. “We’re hoping he keeps that up.”
Luke’s Alley took to the Gulfstream turf last year after racing almost exclusively on Woodbine’s Polytrack the previous two years with considerable success. After earning his first Grade 1 win in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap last February, the 7-year-old son of Flower Alley went to the sidelines for eight months before finishing off the board in his Nov. 19 return in the Autumn (G2) over Woodbine’s synthetic surface. Paco Lopez has the mount for Luke’s Alley’s return to the Gulfstream turf.
Other strong candidates in the Fort Lauderdale include the Macagone, who upset Heart to Heart in the Artie Schiller; Night Prowler, who captured the Dania Beach (G3) last season at Gulfstream, and Chad Brown stablemate Almanaar; Jay Gatsby, a close second behind Heart to Heart in the Knickerbocker at Belmont in October; and Fire Away, a Shug McGaughey-trained 5-year-old who is slated to make his stakes debut after winning three of his last four starts.
Rose Brier, the disqualified winner of the Tropical Park Handicap (G3) last time out, Diamond Bachelor, a two-time stakes winner over the Gulfstream turf during the fall; and Copingaway round out the field.
Sandiva Eyes Defense of Marshua’s River (G3)
Defending champ joined by stablemate Isabella Sings
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – With both of their racing careers in the final furlong, Sandiva and Isabella Sings are looking to pad their already showy résumés with another graded score when they enter the starting gate for Saturday’s $150,000 Marshua’s River (G3) at Gulfstream Park.
Both of the accomplished turf mares are trained by Todd Pletcher. Al Shaqab Racing’s Sandiva, who has demonstrated a penchant for Gulfstream Park’s turf course, is the defending Marshua’s River’s champion, and Siena Farm’s homebred Isabella Sings tuned up for this assignment with a handy win in the My Charmer Handicap (G3) at Gulfstream Park West in November.
In what could be both their swan songs before entering the breeding shed, the Pletcher runners headline the 1 1/16-mile Marshua’s River, which drew a field of eight turf runners.
“Right now they are both scheduled to be bred this year,” said Pletcher, who has a meet-leading nine stakes wins at the current Gulfstream Park stand. “I suppose they could run their way into other plans, but we will take it a race at a time right now.”
Sandiva, a 6-year-old daughter of Footstepsinthesand, won last year’s Marshua’s River in easy fashion after playing an active role in setting the early pace. She has not won in four starts to follow, but Sandiva’s most recent effort suggests she is as sharp as ever. She finished second in the 7 1/2-furlong South Beach Stakes at Gulfstream Park Dec. 17, beaten just a neck.
“I thought she ran well and just ran out of ground, but she still has the desire to do it,” Pletcher remarked.
Javier Castellano, aboard Sandiva in both the South Beach and last year’s Marshua’s River, has the mount from post 3.
While Sandiva showed speed in winning last year’s Marshua’s River, she is likely to be outpaced, at least in the early running, by her stablemate, Isabella Sings, a stone-cold front-runner.
Isabella Sings, a 5-year-old daughter of Eskendereya, led at every point of call to take the My Charmer by 1 3/4 lengths in her last start.
“Sometimes she will rate a little more kindly than other times, but she is kind of a free-running type so we just let her do her thing,” Pletcher said. “We can ration out her speed, but you can’t fight with her too much.”
Allowing Isabella Sings to “do her thing” will be jockey Edgard Zayas, who was partnered with her in the My Charmer. They will depart from post 7.
Godolphin Racing’s Dickinson, a 5-year-old daughter of Medaglia d’Oro out of an A.P. Indy mare, will be making her turf stakes debut in the 15th running of the Marshua’s River.
The Kiaran McLaughlin-trained Dickinson didn’t make her turf debut until her ninth career start. The recent move to the grass signaled a new and potentially exciting chapter for the mare who enters the Marshua’s River 2-for-2 on the turf. She won back-to-back allowance races in the fall, including an explosive performance in her most recent race, an allowance optional claimer at Belmont Park Oct. 20.
“She really moved up on the turf and just loved it,” McLaughlin said. “You really never know with that pedigree – the bottom side is dirt and the top side is both. We took her to Parx and tried it and she ran huge. We brought her back to New York and ran her and it was another impressive race. We’ve been sitting and waiting for [the Marshua’s River], pointing to it for a couple of months, because it’s graded and we didn’t want to run her every month. She could have a really good year this year.”
John Velazquez, aboard for Dickinson’s last start, will ride from post 8.
Trainer Christophe Clement, who has won four runnings of the Marshua’s River, has entered Jump Sucker Stable’s Sea Coast. The 6-year-old, who finished a closing second to the pacesetting Isabella Sings in the My Charmer, seeks the first graded stakes win of her career.
Also entered are the Patrick Biacone-trained Elusive Million, who seeks her first North American victory; the fourth-place South Beach finisher, Seeking Treasure; Inside Out, whose latest victory was an allowance optional claimer at Pimlico in June; and the in-form Lobelia, who is making her graded stakes debut. Pletcher has entered Genre, a graded stakes winner on the dirt, as a main track only entry. Caboclo do Rio is the other MTO in the field.
Tommy Macho Seeks Return to Form in G3 Hal’s Hope
$150,000 Stakes One of Three Graded Events Worth $500,000 Jan. 14
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Already a graded stakes winner when he arrived in South Florida last winter, Paul Pompa Jr. and J Stables’ Tommy Macho put forth a career-best effort to beat a solid cast in the Fred Hooper (G3) 11 months ago at Gulfstream Park.
Just as he was rounding into top form, the bay son of Macho Uno emerged from that race with a knee chip that required surgery and kept him away from the races for eight months. Following a pair of off-the-board finishes to end 2016, Tommy Macho returns to Gulfstream for his 5-year-old debut in Saturday’s $150,000 Hal’s Hope (G3).
The 31st running of the one-mile Hal’s Hope for 4-year-olds and up is one of three graded stakes on the 12-race program, along with the $200,000 Fort Lauderdale (G2) for 4-year-olds and up and $150,000 Marshua’s River (G3) for females 4 and older, both at 1 1/16 miles on the grass. First race post time is noon.
Tommy Macho, third in his career debut in February 2015 at Gulfstream, went on to run third in the Dwyer (G3) and Pennsylvania Derby (G2) before a 4 ½-length score in the Discovery Handicap (G3) that fall. Beaten as the favorite in the Queen’s County Stakes to end his sophomore season, he kicked off last year with an impressive victory in the Fred Hooper.
In that race, he rallied from next-to-last after a half-mile with a four-wide move to take the lead at the top of the stretch and draw off to win by 3 ¾ lengths over multiple graded stakes-winning stablemate Stanford.
“Unfortunately when he won last year he injured his knee and had surgery,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “Honestly, his last couple of races have been a little bit disappointing but he seemed to really like Gulfstream last year so we’re hoping to get him back on track.
“His race here last year was ultra impressive. We know he’s got it in him; we just need to get him back in top form,” he added. “I think he was a little rusty off the layoff. He’s training with enthusiasm now, so hopefully he runs like it.”
Tommy Macho made his return in the one-mile Kelso (G2) Oct. 8 at Belmont Park, where he tired to finish last of five after a wide trip. He capped the year finishing fourth, beaten four lengths, in the 1 1/8-mile Richard W. Small Nov. 19 at Laurel Park.
“The Kelso was maybe a bit too much to ask first time off the bench and then we stretched him out to a mile and an eighth at Laurel and I don’t think he loved the surface there that day and he got a little late the last part of it,” Pletcher said. “Hopefully with those two races under his belt he’s ready to fire his best shot.”
Luis Saez will ride Tommy Macho from Post 2 of nine at 119 pounds for Pletcher, who won the Hal’s Hope with Quality Road in 2010 and Mshawish last year.
Among the horses looking for their first stakes win in the Hal’s Hope is Marylou Whitney’s Bird Song, front-running winner of a one-mile, second-level optional claiming allowance Nov. 24 at Churchill Downs to cap his 3-year-old season.
It was the third win in five starts for the gray or roan son of Unbridled’s Song, who broke his maiden and won an entry-level allowance, both at six furlongs, in back-to-back efforts last summer. He was a disappointing eighth in the King’s Bishop (G1) at Saratoga in his stakes debut after racing near the back of the pack in the seven-furlong sprint.
“He won and then won again, so he put us in a position where you’re looking at stakes races, but he wasn’t quite seasoned enough for it. And I rode him wrong that day,” trainer Ian Wilkes said. “I should have let him run a little more. I made the decision but first time in a stake, I should have let him just run a little more and I didn’t.
“He’s so talented,” he added. “He’s getting better. I was playing catch-up all last year with him. I felt like I was always chasing his tail. Finally at the end of the year I felt like I got him where he should be. He’s a really nice horse.”
Bird Song tuned up for the Hal’s Hope with a five-furlong breeze in 59.35 seconds Jan. 5 at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach County. It was the fastest of eight horses at the distance.
“The horse is doing good. I was very pleased with the work,” Wilkes said. “We came back and got him back on track and I feel like now he’s taken off. The horse is doing well, he’s training good. I wouldn’t run him if he wasn’t. I don’t see a reason to keep him in the barn.”
Julien Leparoux is named to ride Bird Song from Post 3 at 117 pounds.
Florida-bred gelding Mr. Jordan, whose four career stakes wins includes the 2015 Pegasus (G3), takes a two-race win streak into the Hal’s Hope, a race where he finished fifth last year. He placed in six consecutive stakes last year, three of them graded, before taking a Parx allowance by 9 ¼ lengths Oct. 17 and the Millions Classic Preview by 3 ¾ lengths Nov. 12 at Gulfstream Park West. He will carry jockey Joe Bravo and topweight of 121 pounds from Post 8.
Grade 3 winner Ami’s Flatter, third in the 2015 Florida Derby (G1); Team Colors, making his first start since finishing second in the Skip Away (G3) April 2 at Gulfstream; Dolphus, a half-brother to Hall of Fame mare Rachel Alexandra that romped in a seven-furlong off-the-turf optional claiming allowance Dec. 11 at Gulfstream; Realm, most recently third in the Cigar Mile (G1) Nov. 26; and Grade 3-placed Unbridled Outlaw, coming off a seven-furlong allowance win Nov. 23, round out the field.