02/03/2016 10:50AM

Closing Bell shifts sights to dirt in Donn


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Closing Bell was a player in the 3-year-old turf niche last year, finishing second in the Grade 1 Secretariat before winning the Dueling Grounds Derby and finishing second in the Bryan Station on Breeders’ Cup weekend at Keeneland.

But with the turn of the calendar, his focus has shifted away from the grass. Closing Bell, owned by WinStar Farm and trained by Bill Mott, will make his 4-year-old debut Saturday at Gulfstream Park in the $500,000 Donn Handicap, a Grade 1 race at 1 1/8 miles on dirt.

“We’re taking a bit of a stab,” said WinStar president Elliott Walden, adding playfully, “He is undefeated on dirt, you know.”

After starting his career here last April on grass, Closing Bell won a maiden special weight race on the Belmont Park main track in May. He then finished the year with five straight races on turf, ending with a seventh-place finish Nov. 28 in the Hollywood Turf Cup and seasonal earnings of $419,415.

“We just got into a rhythm last year with those turf races,” said Walden. “But if you look at the Hollywood Turf Cup, that kind of gave us the thought that his running style may be better suited to dirt than turf. He doesn’t have what you would call a turf kick; he’s more of a grinder. So, with the way he’s been training, and if you look back at his maiden win, we thought we’d give this a try.”

Closing Bell, by Tapit, will carry 114 pounds in the Donn. He will try to give Mott his fourth Donn victory and WinStar its third, albeit its first as a solo owner. Mott won in 1995 and 1996 with Cigar and in 2014 with Lea. WinStar won in 2008 with Spring At Last as partners with Paul Reddam and last year with Constitution, also a son of Tapit, as partners with Twin Creeks Racing.