05/28/2013 1:21PM

Calder: Bahamian Squall has sharp breeze for Ponche Handicap

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Barbara D. Livingston
Bahamian Squall will use the June 8 Ponche Handicap at Calder as a prep for the Grade 2 Smile Sprint on July 6.

MIAMI – Trainer David Fawkes was all smiles after watching Bahamian Squall breeze a sharp five furlongs in 1:00.65 from the gate at Calder Race Course on Sunday, a work that likely will propel the graded stakes-placed sprinter into the $75,000 Ponche Handicap as one of the favorites here June 8.

Bahamian Squall broke from the gate with two others, including Fawkes’s Hot Coffee, but might as well have been in there alone. He quickly opened daylight on his two workmates after sizzling through an opening three furlongs in 35.02 seconds. He finished well without urging around the tight turn, and then eased up a bit to gallop out six furlongs in 1:14.82.

Bahamian Squall finished third in the Grade  3 Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship on Feb. 9 in his last start. Fawkes had been consideringthree options for his next race. He could keep him home for the Ponche or send him out of town for Saturday’s Grade 3, $100,000 Aristides at Churchill Downs or the Grade 2, $400,000 True North at Belmont Park on June 8.

“It really doesn’t make much sense shipping him all the way to Kentucky for only $25,000 extra in purse money,” Fawkes said. “And I wound up not even nominating him for the True North because I really don’t think he’s ready for that type of competition coming off a layoff.”

But Fawkes does think Bahamian Squall will be ready for the Ponche, even though his competition could include Grade 1 winner Jackson Bend, the multiple graded stakes-placed Trickmeister, and Close It Out, the impressive winner of the Champali Stakes here May 18 who defeated Bahamian Squall last fall in the Jack Dudley Sprint.

“Even though my horse has been off, he never left the grounds, and I think he might have a fitness edge over some of the others,” Fawkes said. “Jackson Bend went to the breeding shed and has only been back here a month or so, and Trickmeister has not run since the fall. Close It Out could wind up being the main danger in the Ponche, especially if the pace is fast, although I don’t think my horse necessarily has to be on the lead, like he was last time.”

Jackson Bend also worked from the gate Sunday, breaking alone about five minutes before Bahamian Squall. Jackson Bend went a handy six furlongs in 1:13.64, posting splits of 35.88 for three furlongs and 48.70 for the opening half-mile before finishing willingly under strong urging during the final quarter-mile. He pulled up fairly abruptly after completing the work and was not credited with a gallop-out time.

The six-furlong Ponche serves as the final local prep for the Grade 2 Smile Sprint Handicap on July 6.

One locally-based speedster who could wind up competing in the True North is Off the Jak, the winner of the Sunshine Millions Sprint this winter at Gulfstream Park and more recently a high-priced optional claimer at Churchill Downs. Off the Jak breezed a solid half-mile in 47.98 here Saturday while having to come wide around a pair of other workers into the stretch.

“We’ll give him one more easy breeze on Friday before making a final decision, but at the moment, we’re thinking about taking him to New York for the True North,” trainer Shivananda Parbhoo said.

Parbhoo said his defending Eclipse Award champion sprinter Trinniberg also will breeze Friday as he prepares for the Smile Sprint. Trinniberg, who, like Off the Jak, is owned by Sherry Parbhoo, has finished far back in both of his starts since winning the Breeders’ Cup Sprint last fall at Santa Anita. He finished a tiring seventh after contesting the early pace earlier this month in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Handicap.

◗ Two-year-old races have been few and far between this spring, but the pace will pick up during the week, with a maiden special weight test for juvenile fillies carded Thursday; split divisions of a maiden $32,000 dash, one open and the second for fillies, spicing up Friday’s nine-race program; and a maiden special weight contest for males that features Awesome Feather’s baby half-brother, It’s a Done Deal, on Saturday.

◗ There are no stakes here Saturday, but there are several stakes winners in the afternoon’s main event, a $40,000 allowance for fillies and mares that lured Frolic’s Revenge, Awesome Belle, and My Pal Chrisy. The one-mile race is scheduled to be run on the turf, weather permitting.

◗ The seesaw battle for leading-rider honors continues. Edgard Zayas will bring a one-win advantage, 37-36, over Jonathan Gonzales into Thursday’s program, with another rising apprentice, Hugo Sanchez, continuing to gain ground on the top pair. Sanchez posted a riding double Sunday to move within nine victories of the lead entering the new week.