09/20/2011 12:11PM

Calder: Gold following same routine in bid for third consecutive Florida Stallion Stakes sweep

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Jim Lisa
Fort Loudon has won the first two races of the Florida Stallion Stakes and can sweep the open-division series with a win in the In Reality.

MIAMI – The formula is tried and true. Capture the opening two legs of the Florida Stallion Stakes, skip the prep for the final leg, toss in a stamina-enhancing one-mile work during the six weeks between races, and then the complete a sweep of the series by winning the 1 1/16-mile finale on the Festival of the Sun card.

The modus operandi may seem simple. Having the horses talented enough to accomplish the feat is the hard part. Trainer Stanley Gold has combined talent with the training regimen each of the last two seasons to sweep the Stallion Stakes in 2009 with Jackson Bend and again a year ago with his Eclipse Award winner Awesome Feather. He’ll try to put all the necessary elements together once again and attempt for an unprecedented third straight Stallion series sweep when sending out Fort Loudon in the $300,000 In Reality Stakes here Oct. 15.

Fort Loudon is one of four 2-year-olds Gold will start for owner-breeder Fred Brei in the two FSS finales on Festival of the Sun Day. He’ll also send out Argentine Tango in the open In Reality as well as both Redbud Road and Awesome Belle in the My Dear Girl, which is for fillies. Redbud Road fell just inches short of having won the opening two legs of the filly division when dropping a heartbreaking nose decision to Queen Drama in the seven-furlong Susan’s Girl after capturing the six-furlong Desert Vixen three weeks earlier.

Gold sent all four of his Stallion hopefuls out to work a mile earlier this week, including Fort Loudon who covered the distance in 1:42.51 on Sunday. That time is about as good a one-mile breeze as you’ll see by any horse of any age over this racetrack. All four of the works were orchestrated in a somewhat unorthodox manner, beginning and ending at the six-furlong pole at the top of the backstretch instead of in the customary fashion from wire to wire.

“I like to get them used to finishing past the wire and not quit,” Gold explained when asked why he chose to begin the mile works down the backstretch. “This way they get something different out of it, and it’s also a way to break up the boredom.”

Fort Loudon, winner of both the Dr. Fager and Affirmed stakes earlier this summer, looked like a horse working six furlongs, not a mile, with the splits he posted Sunday. Fort Loudon went his opening quarter in 23.42 seconds, a half in 48.49, and six panels in 1:14.60 before tiring just a bit as expected finishing up around the clubhouse turn.

“He was pretty impressive,” Gold said. “Everybody made a big deal about Jackson [Bend] going in 1:42 a couple of years ago, and this horse did the same thing without much effort. It was nothing for him. He just might be a legitimately nice horse, although I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself at the moment.”

Gold said he understands as well as anybody the difference between running in a restricted race over his home course and facing the best of the division outside south Florida once the Stallion Stakes are over.

“It’s a lot different when you go over to the other side,” Gold said. “By that I mean facing the best 2-year-olds that have been running up north. It’s a particularly big difference between the colts here and out of town, so I am tempering my expectations with Fort Loudon. But by skipping the prep last week and training him up to the In Reality, if we do get fortunate to win this race and perhaps go on to the Breeders’ Cup, we’ll have a lot fresher horse. Much in the same manner as we did a year ago with Awesome Feather.”

The prep Gold was referring to was last Saturday’s mile and 70-yard Foolish Pleasure.

Redbud Road was not nearly as impressive in her mile work Monday as Fort Loudon was the previous morning, completing the distance in 1:48.61 with a final half in 53.20.

“I’m not really concerned about the time,” Gold said. “Some 2-year-olds breezing by themselves, especially a mile, just don’t work that good.”

Gold is still a little frustrated at the fact Redbud Road won’t have an opportunity to be going for the sweep herself next month.

“The difference at the end was so marginal last time,” Gold said. “It wasn’t even the bob of a head. It was literally a matter of inches.”

Gold admits he had far and away the best horse when sweeping the series with Jackson Bend and Awesome Feather, but realizes things are not so clear cut this time around.

“It’s a very equally matched group of horses in both divisions this year,” Gold said. “It’s a very good year for the Stallion Stakes. There are no standouts, and it’s going to take good luck and good trips to win both those races next month.”

Gold also is happy to see his former pupil, Jackson Bend, ascend to the top of the nation’s sprint division with his recent victory in the Grade 1 Forego for trainer Nick Zito. Gold had Jackson Bend, who is owned in partnership by Brei and Bob LaPenta, in his barn both as a 2-year-old and again earlier this season.

“He finished second for us in the Skip Away this year, which was no small accomplishment, but there was never any talk or consideration to turning him back in distance at the time,” Gold said. “Kudos to Nick for making that decision, it was a sharp move.”

Gold said he’s also very proud of what he’s achieved here the past several seasons.

“How can you ever think being down here at Calder you could turn out a Breeders’ Cup winner, another horse who looks like he might be going to the Breeders’ Cup this year, and have a bunch of 2-year-olds again one or two of whom could also show up in the Cup,” Gold said. “That’s pretty wild. Considering where we are and the limited number of horses and opportunities, I surely can’t complain about what we’ve been able to accomplish over the past three years.”