02/02/2015 12:42PM

Constitution, Commissioner to meet in Donn Handicap

Barbara D. Livingston
Constitution, shown training Sunday, most recently was third in the Clark Handicap on Nov. 28.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – After this, their paths likely will diverge. But with the Donn Handicap being the lone viable option for a while, the 4-year-old WinStar Farm standouts Constitution and Commissioner will race against each other Saturday at Gulfstream Park.

“You normally prefer not to do it like this, and I imagine we’ll keep them separated down the road,” said WinStar president Elliott Walden. “But they’re right there, doing well, and we think it’s a good way for both to start off their years.”

Constitution, the winner of the Florida Derby here last year, and Commissioner, second in the Belmont Stakes in June, are among four horses trainer Todd Pletcher is planning to run in the $500,000 Donn, the first Grade 1 race of the year in North America for older dirt horses. Protonico, owned by Sumaya U.S. Stable, and Liam’s Map, owned by Teresa Viola Racing Stables, are the others.

Constitution, owned in partnership with WinStar by Twin Creeks Racing, will be making his first start since finishing third in the Nov. 28 Clark Handicap. Protonico, also a 4-year-old, was second in the Clark.

“We’ve been pointing for this race all along with Constitution,” said Walden.

Commissioner was narrowly beaten in a Jan. 10 allowance tune-up at Gulfstream, while Liam’s Map earned an eye-catching 112 Beyer Speed Figure in winning the Dec. 13 Harlan’s Holiday at Gulfstream in his latest outing.

All four Pletcher horses breezed a half-mile Sunday at Palm Beach Downs.

Lea, the 2014 winner, is expected to be the starting highweight in the 1 1/8-mile Donn, which will be co-featured with the Santa Anita’s San Antonio Stakes on the leadoff telecast in the Jockey Club Tour on Fox series (5:30-7:30 p.m. Eastern).

With weights, these are the older horses expected when entries are drawn Wednesday: Lea, 121 pounds; Constitution, 119; Commissioner, 118; Protonico, 118; East Hall, 117; Blue Tone, 116; Liam’s Map, 116; Prayer for Relief, 116; Catholic Cowboy, 115; Elnaawi, 115; and Sloane Avenue, 114.

The Donn and the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap are the highlights of a sensational Saturday card that will include four other stakes.

V. E. Day back from freshening

As Wicked Strong continues to prepare for his return to action next month, his similarly accomplished 4-year-old stablemate, V. E. Day, returned to the Jimmy Jerkens barn Saturday at the Palm Meadows training center.

Jerkens said V. E. Day looks good after having been freshened in Ocala, Fla., following an 11th-place finish in the Nov. 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic, and that he has no particular race in mind for the English Channel colt. Meanwhile, Wicked Strong has been breezing regularly toward a scheduled comeback in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Handicap, a one-mile race here March 7.

V. E. Day and Wicked Strong were separated by only a nose as the one-two finishers in the Travers Stakes last August for Jerkens, whose father was on hand here Saturday to present the winner’s trophy for the inaugural running of his namesake race, the Allen Jerkens Stakes.

Aside from enjoying seeing his father feted with heartfelt tributes to his greatness as a horseman and a man, it was a memorable day for Jimmy Jerkens: He won the second race with a promising first-time starter named Spark, a 3-year-old filly by Speightstown.