01/04/2010 12:00AM

Biancone off on right foot

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Barbara D. Livingston
Trainer Patrick Biancone plans to shuttle between Florida and the West Coast this winter.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - It's been 10 years since trainer Patrick Biancone has stabled a regular string at Gulfstream Park. But it certainly didn't take long for the veteran horseman to let people know he was back.

Biancone won the first race on Sunday's opening-day program with Grand Captain, a 4-year-old son of Grand Slam who earned his diploma with a come-from-behind victory over the favored Causeway's Kin.

"I was leading trainer for a half-hour," the good-humored Biancone said at his barn on Monday.

Biancone currently has 14 horses stabled at Gulfstream, with two more on the way. His daughter Marie is also here with eight of her own.

"I've brought mainly 2-year-olds turning 3," said Biancone, "many of them horses who seem to prefer the dirt to the artificial surface back in California.

"I still have about two-thirds of my stable back there, and I'll be shuttling back and forth between here and the West Coast all winter. This way I can have the best of both sides."

Among the horses Biancone brought to south Florida this winter is Pulsion, who has not started since finishing a troubled 11th in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. In his previous try, Pulsion finished second behind Lookin at Lucky in the Grade 1 Norfolk Stakes.

"He nearly went down going into the first turn after getting knocked around pretty good in the Breeders' Cup," said Biancone. "He came out of the race cut up in behind, so he's been laid off by obligation, not by desire."

Biancone said Pulsion would have his first local work on Wednesday, and if all goes well the trainer is pointing him for the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth on Feb. 20.

High praise for Hockeythehayman

Wesley Ward has trained some fast horses over the years, so the fact he calls the undefeated Hockeythehayman "probably the most talented horse I've ever had" should not be taken lightly.

Hockeythehayman will put his unblemished record on the line here Saturday in the $75,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint. The five-furlong dash is one of five stakes to be decided during the track's newest promotion, the Gulfstream Sprint Showcase.

Hockeythehayman, a son of Songandaprayer, has improved with each start since winning his debut under a $40,000 claiming price at Calder on June 4. His next two victories came at Del Mar, one over the Polytrack and the second on turf before he closed out the campaign earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 101 winning an open allowance race over the Keeneland turf on Oct. 28.

"He ran a 2 on the sheets in his last start, so I wanted to give him a bunch of time off to recuperate from the race," Ward said while watching his last sets work at the end of a cold morning here Monday. "He may be the most talented horse I've trained. Unfortunately he's got a breathing issue, which will pretty much restrict him to sprint races on the turf from now on."

Hockeythehayman gave railbirds a glimpse of his talent when he breezed over the local turf course about 10 days ago.

"He was going along easily when Stardom Bound, who was breezing at the same time, got within about a length and a half of him on the turn," said Ward. "And he just put it into another gear and pulled away from her like it was nothing, with the rider throwing him down."

Ward, who earned world-wide acclaim last summer by become the first American trainer to win a race at Ascot, continues to span the globe looking for opportunities for his horses. He has Cannonball in Australia preparing for the Coolmore Lightning Stakes on Jan. 30. Cannonball, who finished third despite early trouble in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, also raced in England and Japan in 2009.

"He only got beat four lengths over in Japan, but really didn't fire his best race," said Ward. "Perhaps the fact he grabbed a quarter in his stall the day before the race had something to do with that."

Ward is also looking forward to running Strike the Tiger a week from Saturday in the $100,000 Dania Beach Stakes on the turf. Strike the Tiger captured his first three starts, including the listed Windsor Castle Stakes at Ascot, before closing out his juvenile campaign finishing seventh as the favorite in the Cradle Stakes at River Downs.

"They took the Cradle off the turf and moved it to the main track right before the race, and he just didn't handle it," said Ward. "He's been training really well since we've been here and should run big next week."

Trio of riding doubles

Jockeys Joe Bravo, Jose Lezcano and John Velazquez all posted riding doubles here opening day. Bravo won the opener for Biancone then returned to guide Never Quicker to a very impressive maiden win going a mile in the fourth. Never Quicker, a son of Hennessy, is trained by Kelly Breen.

Lezcano posted victories for Terry Pompay with the favored Mannington as well as the Tom Proctor-trained Doctor Carina, who won the first official turf race of the 2010 meet.

Velazquez won back-to-back races for trainer Todd Pletcher, starting with Blues Street and followed by Quality Road's impressive tally in the Grade 3 Hal's Hope. The two wins were somewhat bittersweet for Velazquez, who had just returned home following the death of his father last week.

"It feels a little strange riding for the first time since my dad passed away, but you just have to move on," Velazquez said while leaving the winner's circle following the Hal's Hope.

Frieze in between gigs

Jockey agent Bob Frieze was on the backstretch greeting friends during training hours on Monday. Frieze is without a rider after having parted ways with longtime client Edgar Prado late last year.

"I'm like Urban Meyer," Frieze said - likening himself to the University of Florida football coach - while stopping by Biancone's barn to confirm a tee time later in the day. "I'm on leave of absence at the moment."

* Formidable, who finished third in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap here last spring, worked five furlongs in 1:02.87 from the half to the one-mile pole on Monday for trainer Allen Jerkens. Formidable could make his 2010 debut in Saturday's Grade 3 Mr. Prospector Handicap.