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Updated on 09/17/2011 1:49PM
Day dwells at the starting gate
HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day will miss the first three weeks of the Gulfstream Park meet after undergoing minor surgery for a calcified rotator cuff in early December.
Day's agent, Doc Danner, said on Friday that Day hopes to return to action on or before Jan. 24, when the rich Sunshine Millions program will be held at Gulfstream and Santa Anita. In the meantime, Day, who lives in Louisville, Ky., has been spending time in Colorado with his mother, who has been ill with heart problems.
Danner said that Day, who missed the final three days (Nov. 27-29) of the Churchill Downs fall meet with a sinus ailment, underwent rotator cuff surgery because of a nagging condition "that had built up over the years." Day normally uses December as his vacation month before returning at Gulfstream. "He said he didn't feel like the arm was 100 percent, so he decided to give himself time to let it completely heal," said Danner.
Until 1996, when he began riding at Gulfstream each winter, Day had ridden during the winter months at Oaklawn Park, where he remains the all-time leading rider in virtually every major category. At Gulfstream, he typically ranks among the top 10 in wins while restricting himself mostly to high-end races.
With more than 8,300 career wins, Day, 50, ranks third all-time behind the retired Laffit Pincay Jr. (9,530) and the late Bill Shoemaker (8,833). Day rode 215 winners last year.
Danner planned to arrive in south Florida from Louisville on Saturday to begin lining up business for Day's return.
Tapit en route soon from Maryland
, widely considered among the leading 3-year-old prospects in the country, is expected to ship to south Florida within the next eight to ten days, according to David Fiske, racing manager for owner Ron Winchell's Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC.
Tapit won both his 2-year-old starts impressively, including the Grade 3 Laurel Futurity by 4 3/4 lengths. He is currently stabled on trainer Michael Dickinson's Tapeta Farm in Maryland.
"We freshened him up a bit after the Futurity and originally planned on giving him a couple of works on Michael's farm and then ship him to Palm Meadows," Fiske said Friday. "In fact, he'd probably be on a van and headed down there today if we'd stuck with that schedule. But the weather has been so mild in Maryland, Michael decided to keep him up at the farm as long as possible, and try to get one more work under him before he heads to Florida."
Fiske said that no definite itinerary has been laid out for Tapit this winter, and that "anything is a possibility at this point."
"He could shoot for the Fountain of Youth if everything goes right with him," said Fiske. "He's also eligible for a second-level allowance race, and that could be an option, too. He can be a bit of a handful to train so Michael might have to do something with him before too long."
Swale a possibility for Cuvee
Fiske reported that Cuvee, who is also owned by Winchell, went back to the track Friday for the first time since finishing 12th as the 8-5 favorite in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Cuvee, a son of Carson City, won 4 of 6 starts at 2, including the Grade 1 Belmont Futurity.
"His vacation ended this morning [Friday]," said Fiske. "We took a chip out of his knee after the Breeders' Cup and he's currently with Steve [Asmussen] at the Fair Grounds, although there's a good possibility he could also show up in Florida this winter."
Fiske said it is uncertain whether Cuvee will be put on the Kentucky Derby trail or on more of a sprint program. He said Asmussen had originally considered bringing Cuvee back in time for the Grade 3, seven-furlong Swale Stakes at Gulfstream on March 13, but he is not sure if he'll be ready in time.
"We're not certain what direction to take with him yet," said Fiske. "Steve brought Posse to Gulfstream to run in the Swale last winter and felt the surface there might be to Cuvee's liking. Even though he's an easy horse to train and does get fit quickly, it might be pushing it just a bit to make that race. It will all depends on how he trains and comes back from the surgery."
Only 15 nominees for Bid
The first 3-year-old stakes of the meet, the six-furlong Spectacular Bid, scheduled for Jan. 10, drew only 15 nominations. In previous years, the Grade 3 Spectacular Bid had been part of the Florida Derby series, and all horses nominated for the Florida Derby were also eligible for the Spectacular Bid. But this winter, racing secretary Dave Bailey replaced the Spectacular Bid in the series with the Swale.
"I decided to make a change because I was afraid the Swale was in jeopardy of losing its graded status," said Bailey.
Among the main contenders nominated to the Spectacular Bid is the Calder-based Wynn Dot Comma, who won his first four starts before dropping a one-length decision to the undefeated Sir Oscar in the seven-furlong Jack Price Juvenile in his 2-year-old finale.
Trainer Marty Wolfson said he remains undecided whether to run Wynn Dot Comma in the Spectacular Bid or wait for the Sunshine Millions Dash at Santa Anita two weeks later.
"I'll work him Sunday and make a decision after that," said Wolfson. "The Sunshine Millions is my first choice because the purse is bigger and the competition may end up being easier. I also missed a couple of works with him after his last race because of a bad foot abscess, and the Sunshine Millions would give me a couple of extra weeks to get him ready. The major drawback is that logistically it's just so far to go."
Douglas now among many kings
When in Chicago, Rene Douglas is accustomed to having his way. In recent years, Douglas has become the undisputed king of jockeys at Arlington Park, where he can pick and choose from the best available mounts.
But at Gulfstream, where many of the top North American riders converge each winter, Douglas becomes just another name in a seemingly bottomless pool of riding talent. "There are 10 kings here," he said.
Douglas said cracking the top echelon at Gulfstream is difficult for someone like him because he does not have a high-powered outfit behind him. "You try and ride a little bit for everybody," he said. "It's not like [Jerry] Bailey riding for [Bill] Mott or Johnny [Velazquez] with Todd [Pletcher]. You get your wins from wherever you can."
Offlee Wild ready to run soon
Offlee Wild, who came to prominence last January with an upset win in the Holy Bull Stakes, is nearing a start at Gulfstream, having last run at Keeneland in October, said his trainer, T.V. Smith.
Offlee Wild had several months off after finishing 12th in the Kentucky Derby, then returned with three straight losses in the fall. He was narrowly beaten in a second-level allowance at Keeneland in his last start.
"He's training awfully well right now," said Smith, who said an allowance race is the logical return spot for Offlee Wild.
* Jon Court, who rode easily the richest winner of his career aboard Fleetstreet Dancer in the $2.1 million Japan Cup Dirt in late November, has ridden in only one race since. Court rode Turn to Lass to a third-place finish in the Dec. 5 Delta Princess at Delta Downs. "It was a great month off," said Court, who is in his third season at Gulfstream.
- additional reporting by Mike Welsch