01/17/2011 12:35PM

Distance no concern for Zhivago in turf marathon


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – It will take a little quality and a lot of stamina to win Wednesday’s featured eighth race at Gulfstream Park, a 1 1/2-mile, entry-level allowance test over the inner turf course that carries a $51,000 purse.

One member of the packed 12-horse field who seems to fit both descriptions is Zhivago, a son of Thunder Gulch trained by H. James Bond for owner William Clifton Jr. Zhivago is one of only three members of the field with any stakes experience and the only one with a victory at 12 furlongs, having captured his maiden over the synthetic surface at Woodbine going 1 1/2 miles in October. That performance earned him a stakes opportunity five weeks later in the even more grueling 1 3/4-mile Valedictory Stakes, where he finished seventh under jockey Chantal Sutherland after racing within striking distance to the stretch.

“He’s a nice little horse,” Bond said. “Unfortunately when we went back to Toronto for the stakes, we hit some terrible weather. That night was the coldest I’ve ever been in my life. The wind was blowing 30 miles an hour, they delayed and delayed the races, and Chantal never had a chance to do much with him. Those riders had all they could do to hang on that night.”

“I’m just drawing a line through that race,” Bond said. “He’s been training very well since he got down here, and this is the first mile and one half race we’ve had around here. He’s by Thunder Gulch with Sadler’s Wells on the bottom, so he should be a distance machine.”

Zhivago will likely have to beat the Bill Mott-trained Harrods Creek to win his 2011 debut. Harrods Creek also has both stakes and long distance experience. As a 2-year-old, Harrods Creek finished third in River Downs’ Cradle, and he closed out his 3-year-old campaign last fall by finishing second in a pair of 1 1/2-mile allowance races in Kentucky, the first over the Keeneland turf and the second on the main track at Churchill Downs.

James Street will try to avenge a half-length setback at the hands of Zhivago when the pair met going 1 1/2 miles at Woodbine on Oct. 21. A son of El Prado, James Street bounced right back to earn his diploma when turning back to 1 1/16 miles five weeks later.