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Booklet works like he wants to run
HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - After Booklet scored wrenching victories over Harlan's Holiday in both the Holy Bull and Fountain of Youth stakes in a four-week period earlier in the meet, some might expect the colt to tail off coming into the $1 million Florida Derby on March 16. But the gutsy little colt gave no such indication after working five furlongs in 59.80 seconds under exercise rider Allen Rennie here on Friday morning.
"He was just letting off a little steam today," said trainer John Ward Jr. "He left there a little on the muscle and went the first three-eighths in 34 and change. But then he relaxed back down nicely. He did it pleasantly and just as happy as could be."
Booklet is seeking to become the first horse to sweep this meet's three major two-turn races for 3-year-olds, the Holy Bull, the Fountain of Youth, and the Florida Derby - and the first since Vicar in 1999 to win both the Fountain of Youth and the Florida Derby.
"If he's going to bounce, I think it will be after the Florida Derby," said Ward who won both the Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby last year with Monarchos. "It happened with Thunder Gulch and Monarchos. The Florida Derby is a demanding race both physically and mentally on an animal. You have the extra distance [1 1/8 miles], the weight [122 pounds], the heat, and the large crowd. In addition, horses have trained and raced pretty hard just getting to this level. I think Booklet has an advantage over most of the others since he's already carried 122 pounds the last two times. But win, lose, or draw, we should come out of the race with a pretty solid competitor."
Ward said he'll be looking for as much time as possible in between the Florida Derby and Booklet's final prep for the Kentucky Derby.
"I'll wait and take a look after the Florida Derby where we want to go although I wouldn't be looking for a real hard spot," Ward said.
Meanwhile, D'Coach, who shipped from New York last month to prepare for the Florida Derby, also worked at Gulfstream Friday, going five furlongs in 1:02 seconds.
"He worked well this morning and I was satisfied," said trainer Shug McGaughey. "He could run in the Florida Derby, but I'll wait and see how things go."
Also, trainer John Hennig has not yet ruled out the Florida Derby for Political Attack, who chased Booklet into the stretch before finishing fourth in the Fountain of Youth.
"We haven't ruled it out completely although right now we're leaning towards the Tampa Bay Derby," said Hennig.
The Tampa Bay Derby will be run on March 17, the day after the Florida Derby.
Cellars Shiraz wins off-the-turf Gaily Gaily
When entries were taken for Friday's Gaily Gaily Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on turf, trainer Bill Cesare could not help but notice that Cellars Shiraz had scored two wins and a second from three starts on turf.
"Not too bad, eh?" he said.
Little did Cesare realize that when Gulfstream officials decided Friday morning to take the Gaily Gaily off the turf because of wet conditions, it would significantly increase his filly's chances to win.
Four fillies were scratched from an original field of 11 3-year-old fillies - including major contenders August Storm, Party Queen, and Dame Sylvieguilhem - helping to make Cellars Shiraz the 9-5 favorite.
Cellars Shiraz, owned by Robert Walker's Bitterroot Racing Stable and ridden by Pat Day, had no problem fulfilling the favorite's role, leading all the way before drawing off to an easy 5 3/4-length victory over She's Vested. The winner returned $5.80 after finishing in 1:51.78 over a fast track.
Bells for Marlin finished another 3 1/2 lengths back in third, followed by Swinging Gate, Redoubled Miss, Wicklow Miracle, and Great Senaria.
Jockey Cornelio Velasquez was named on both Cellars Shiraz and Redoubled Miss but was committed to Redoubled Miss when the race came off the turf, allowing Day to get the winning mount.
In her previous start, Cellars Shiraz won the Herecomesthebride Stakes on turf at 18-1. A Florida-bred by Kissin Kris, she now has won 4 of 13 overall starts and earned $165,000.
The Grade 2 Bonnie Miss Stakes on March 15 is a possible next start for the winner, Walker said.
The 7-4 exacta paid $21.80, the 7-4-9 trifecta $61.80.
Prado's ride nets suspension
Edgar Prado, the meet's leading jockey, was scheduled to begin serving a seven-day suspension on Saturday for his ride aboard Caribbean in Wednesday's third race. Caribbean drifted in front of Diamond Studs while tiring through the stretch en route to a sixth-place finish in the $10,000 claiming dash for older horses.
Prado, who will be eligible to return on Saturday, March 9, has ridden 56 winners at the meet. He was six ahead of John Velazquez and eight in front of Jorge Chavez in the jockey standings at the time of his suspension.
Alannan, who has not started since finishing 10th in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, has returned to trainer Carl Nafzger's barn after being given a brief freshening and was out for a leisurely gallop late Friday morning.
"Today was just his second gallop since he arrived," said assistant trainer Rose Churchill, who was aboard Alannan on Friday. "He'll be pointed to run at Keeneland and Churchill this spring."
Alannan had his best success last season in Kentucky, winning Keeneland's Commonwealth Breeders' Cup Stakes and the Churchill Downs Handicap, both Grade 2 races. He also finished third behind Delaware Township and Left Bank despite a rough trip in the Grade 1 Forego Handicap at Saratoga.
While Alannan is just starting to gear up for his 2002 debut, Nafzger has Binthebest ready and primed for next Saturday's $200,000 Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Handicap.
Binthebest finished a late striding third in the Grade 3 Deputy Minister Handicap on Feb. 10 and has since returned to work a bullet five-eighths in 59.20 seconds here Thursday.
Binthebest is one of only 13 nominees for the seven furlong, Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship. Topping the list are Hook and Ladder, easy winner of the six furlong Mr. Prospector Handicap on Jan. 13, and Fappie's Notebook, who outgamed Twilight Road to win the Deputy Minister.
Other notables nominated for the seven-furlong dash are Twilight Road, Burning Roma, Dream Run, and Istintaj.
Burning Roma, who won five stakes last season while also beaten only a half length by Point Given in the Grade 1 Haskell, has spent the winter with trainer Bill Mott at Payson Park.
Ethan Man targets Swale
Ethan Man, whose runaway victory in a Feb. 2 entry-level allowance race stamped him as a possible Kentucky Derby contender, will make his next start in the Swale Stakes on the March 16 Florida Derby undercard, trainer Pat Byrne said Friday.
Byrne said he considered the 1 1/16-mile Tampa Bay Derby on March 17 for Ethan Man, but added: "We want to make the logical progression with him. This way we go from six furlongs to seven furlongs. Then if he runs well, we would go in the Lexington." The Lexington Stakes will be run at 1 1/16 miles on April 20 at Keeneland.
Ethan Man, a Glitterman colt owned by West Point Thoroughbreds, will be ridden again by Pat Day in the Grade 3 Swale. The colt earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 99 in his recent six-length victory. "We believe he's extremely talented," said Byrne. "He could be a Derby horse."
Ethan Man is one of a handful of promising 3-year-olds owned by West Point, which, like Dogwood Stable, Team Valor, and Centennial Farms before them, has developed into one of North America's most well-known ownership syndicates.
At least three other 3-year-olds also have shown considerable potential for West Point, which is headed by Terry Finley and Jim Cullen. They are My Man Ryan and Sherm, based in New York with Rick Violette and Gary Contessa, and Bob's Image, based in New Orleans with Dallas Stewart.
Baby races coming soon
With the Gulfstream meet extended into late April for the first time in many years, fans will see something new in the final five weeks of the meet: 2-year-old races at three furlongs.
"I'm writing the first one for March 20," racing secretary Dave Bailey said. "I've had quite a few people tell me they've got babies in Ocala ready to run. I might just be fishing the first few days, but we should have plenty of them here before long."
Two-year-olds historically have been barred from occupying stall space on the Gulfstream backstretch, but they will be permitted to stable here beginning March 18.
Two-year-old racing was held here two years ago, but that was when Hialeah was leasing Gulfstream for its 2000 spring meet.
Gulfstream's frontside chute extends well back from the main one-track oval, which allows room to run three-furlong races on a straightaway.
Gulfstream's meet runs through April 24.
- additional reporting by Marty McGee