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Updated on 09/16/2011 7:48AM
Belterra takes first step to Bonnie Miss
HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - *, who capped off an undefeated 2-year-old campaign with an easy victory over Take Charge Lady in the Grade 2 Golden Rod Stakes at Churchill Downs, had her first recorded workout of the year on Thursday when she breezed a half-mile here in 49.40 seconds.
Belterra was perfect in three starts last year for Carl Nafzger, who trains the daughter of Unbridled for her breeder, Robert Manfuso.
Nafzger said he is pointing Belterra to the Grade 2, $250,000 Bonnie Miss Stakes here March 15.
"I just gave her some time off after her last race," Nafzger said. "She's had some stride breezes in 53 or so, nothing that would make the clocker's tab. I'm starting to tighten down on her now. We're right on schedule."
Nafzger said he plans to run his other stakes-winning 3-year-old filly, Take the Cake, in the Grade 2 Davona Dale Stakes on Feb. 24. Take the Cake upset 2-5 favorite A New Twist by three lengths in the Grade 3 Forward Gal Stakes on Jan. 27. The 1 1/16-mile Davona Dale will be Take the Cake's first start around two turns.
Coa hearing Thursday
The board of stewards has scheduled a re-hearing for next Thursday at 9 a.m. to review Eibar Coa's ride aboard Mr. Livingston in the Ft. Lauderdale Handicap here Jan. 27.
The stewards suspended Coa 30 days for what they termed "extreme rough riding" in the Ft. Lauderdale. Coa appealed the decision. Gulfstream Park president Scott Savin, acting as appeal officer in the case, ordered Wednesday that Coa be given a second hearing by the stewards after Coa's attorney, Jeff Weiner, presented evidence that the stewards were in violation of house rules by not giving his client written notice of his original hearing and thus ample opportunity to prepare a defense.
This Fleet still due
This Fleet Is Due, making his first start since finishing fourth in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational on Aug. 5, finished second as the 1-2 favorite in a nonwinners-of-three allowance race Thursday. The winner was Rough Draft, the longest shot in the race at 16-1, who held off This Fleet Is Due by a half-length.
This Fleet Is Due, ridden by Pat Day, was pinched back around the first turn of the 1 1/16-mile race, then was fanned widest of all into the stretch in the six-horse field.
"He ran all right for his first time out in six months - going two turns and racing wide - but he's better than that," said Bill Mott, who trains This Fleet Is Due. "He runs in spots. I took the blinkers off him today because he ran in spots in the Haskell with blinkers. I'm not sure what to do."
The track's the thing
Gulfstream's main track, which had produced slower-than-usual times for the first month of the meet, suddenly quickened on Wednesday after extensive renovation on Tuesday. The change was the main topic of discussion among trainers in the stable area on Thursday morning, with comments ranging across the spectrum.
Both Nick Zito and Patrick Byrne were concerned that the sudden change would force an adjustment for their horses, while trainers Joe Orseno and Allen Jerkens appreciated the change.
"This track had a great cushion. I'm a little concerned," Zito said. "I haven't had much injury here, other than a hairline fracture to Silent Fred's foot. They've got to leave some cushion on it."
Zito is one of several trainers who were forced to move to Gulfstream this year after training in previous years at Hialeah, whose surface is generally considered to be superior to Gulfstream's.
Byrne said he was "just getting used to where my horses are, at a fitness level" before the change was made.
"Hopefully it's a change for the better," Byrne said. "As long as it's safe, that's the main thing. I don't mind slow times, as long as it's not too deep. You get soft-tissue injuries if the track is too loose, and you get fractures if the track is too hard. If we can get to a happy medium, we'll be in good shape."
Orseno, who trains for Gulfstream's owner, Frank Stronach, said he suggested to Stronach and track management that the surface needed to be renovated after it worsened, in Orseno's opinion, last weekend.
"The track's beautiful now," Orseno said. "In January the track was great, too. The times were slow, but it was very safe."
Jerkens said he believed the track, while faster, still had a good cushion.
"I go by the sounds of the horses galloping in the morning," Jerkens said. "For years everyone was complaining about how the track was breaking horses down. Now they try to do something different, and everyone still complains. At least it's not for lack of trying anyway this year."
Taking the softer spot
Trainer Mike Gorham decided to take the path of least resistance for his stakes-winning filly Mandy's Gold, passing next week's Grade 3 Shirley Jones Handicap to run in an allowance race on Saturday's Donn Handicap undercard.
Mandy's Gold won her first four career starts, including the Dame Mysterieuse Stakes, in which she upset Raging Fever here last winter. She crossed the finish line first in Aqueduct's Grade 3 Comely Stakes last spring, only to be disqualified and placed second behind Two Item Limit. After that race she was sidelined for nine months. She finished third behind Raging Fever and Cat Cay in the First Lady Handicap earlier this meet in her comeback race.
Gorham said he entered Mandy's Gold in the allowance because he didn't want her to face Raging Fever and Cat Cay again in the Shirley Jones.
"She's a real nice filly and she came out of her last start good, but I was trying to find an easier spot to get her back on the winning spot instead of killing her against those same horses again," said Gorham.
Two turns key for Personal Reward
Personal Reward won his second straight race since being stretched out around two turns when he captured Wednesday's eighth race, and trainer Mark Hennig believes the colt has a chance to be one of the major players here over the next month.
Personal Reward, a 3-year-old son of Personal Hope, is 2 for 2 at this meet. He lost his first two starts while sprinting last summer at Belmont Park, before going to the sidelines with sore shins. In Wednesday's race, Personal Reward overcame a wide trip to beat Quest Star by a half-length going 1 1/16 miles.
"I've been anxious to send him two turns," Hennig said. "I was a little worried when he got hung out on the first turn. The last time, he had a target to run at, but this time he got to the lead at the top of the stretch, and he was waiting on horses. But that's to be expected. He's only run four times."
Hennig said he ran Personal Reward last summer because he never missed a beat while training. But Hennig believed Personal Reward, with his size, would be much better when he was able to run farther.
"He's a lot like Personal Hope," Hennig said. "He had no business running at 2."
Azeff making progress
The staff of trainer John Ward Jr. has visited injured co-worker Yvonne Azeff at a nearby hospital every afternoon since Jan. 26, when a pony fell on Azeff and left her in a coma. They have been hoping to see some improvement, and were encouraged Wednesday when a neck brace was removed.
Azeff remains in a coma, but has been more responsive of late, according to Tammy Holtz, who was the groom for Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos.
"Someone held her hand the other day, and she reached over with her other hand and put it on top of their hand," Holtz said. "A lot of people didn't realize how seriously hurt she was. We knew it, but I think some people thought she'd just get out of the hospital the day she was hurt and come back that afternoon."
* Fappie's Notebook worked three furlong in 37 seconds at Calder on Thursday in preparation for Sunday's $100,000 Deputy Minister Handicap.
California invader Explicit, the lone invader expected for the Deputy Minister, had his flight to south Florida pushed back 24 hours. He is now scheduled to arrive here on Friday morning and will be stabled in trainer Tom Proctor's barn.
- additional reporting by Jay Privman
* Past Performances require Adobe Acrobat Reader.