01/03/2011 5:44PM

Battle of Hastings gets acclimated for Fort Lauderdale


Battle of Hastings has won graded stakes in California, Virginia, and Kentucky, and now the 5-year-old gelding is looking to add Florida to the list.

Fresh from capturing the Grade 3 River City Handicap on Breeders’ Cup weekend at Churchill Downs in his first try for trainer Greg Fox, Battle of Hastings will run Sunday at Gulfstream in the Grade 3, $100,000 Fort Lauderdale Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on the turf.

“We’ve had him down here at Payson Park for over a month now,” said Fox, referring to the bucolic training center near Indiantown, Fla., about 90 minutes north of Gulfstream. “It’s beautiful here, and he’s loved it. Hopefully he’ll run another big race.”

Gulf racing officials are expecting a big field for the Fort Lauderdale, which is one of four stakes to be run here this weekend, with other notable prospects being Baletti, Bim Bam, Get Stormy, and Twilight Meteor.

Another Fort Lauderdale prospect, Little Mike, went an easy half-mile in 48.50 seconds on the turf Monday while completing his final furlong in a sharp 11.44. Little Mike, trained by Allen Iwinski, is in peak form, having won four of his last five starts.

Rule begins comeback in Hal’s Hope

On Saturday, Rule will make his first start since being ruled out of consideration for the 2010 Kentucky Derby when he faces Morning Line and perhaps six other older horses in the Grade 3, $100,000 Hal’s Hope. Rule, the beaten favorite in the Florida Derby last March, is “ready to go” after working five furlongs Sunday at the Palm Meadows training center, said trainer Todd Pletcher.

“He was actually ready to run at Churchill Downs this fall but an allowance race we’d picked out for him didn’t fill,” said Pletcher.

Also set for Saturday is the $100,000 Spectacular Bid, for which officials are expecting a light field of 3-year-old sprinters.

Entries will be drawn Wednesday for Saturday, and Thursday for Sunday.

◗ The first race of the meet that might carry implications toward the Kentucky Derby trail won’t come until Friday, when a first-level allowance is run as the eighth of nine races. Shadow Warrior and El Grayling, both entered off strong efforts at Churchill, figure as the favorites in a field of 10 3-year-old colts. Black N Beauty, Dr. Tom G, and Hammock Beach also are entered in the one-mile race.

◗ Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Big Drama continues to train forwardly for his 2011 debut, which could come in the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector Handicap on Jan. 15. Big Drama worked five furlongs in 1:01.40 and galloped out six furlongs in 1:14.20 at Calder on Monday.

◗ Jose Cuevas, who worked for years as an exercise rider and traveling assistant for Bobby Frankel, has come to Gulfstream for the winter to work as a stablehand for the Flying Zee Stable of Carl Lizza.

– additional reporting by Mike Welsch