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Double trouble from Wolfson
HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - There are three trainers with a chance to win both the Florida Derby and Swale Stakes on Saturday at Gulfstream Park, a feat accomplished by Bobby Frankel last year. While Todd Pletcher and Nick Zito will garner most of the attention, don't be stunned if it's Marty Wolfson who steals the show.
Wolfson, based at Calder, will send out Sir Oscar in the $1 million Florida Derby and Wynn Dot Comma in the $150,000 Swale. Neither will be favored, but both are serious contenders.
Wolfson will be saddling Sir Oscar for the first time. Manny Azpurua had trained Sir Oscar to six wins from as many starts at 2, but owner Oscar Novo made a change after Sir Oscar finished a well-beaten fifth as the co-third choice in the Fountain of Youth.
Sir Oscar was found to have bled in the Fountain of Youth and will run on Lasix for the first time on Saturday. Sir Oscar has breezed three times on Lasix - including two bullet works - and Wolfson believes the anti-bleeding medication has helped him.
"He comes back, he's not tired at all," Wolfson said. "I watched him run in the Fountain of Youth and it was just a struggle."
Wolfson said Sir Oscar was "quiet" when he first came to his barn.
"He's not quiet now," Wolfson said. "His color is definitely different. He's got a real glow to him."
Wolfson was a fan of Sir Oscar's as a 2-year-old, especially when Sir Oscar defeated the Wolfson-trained Wynn Dot Comma in the Jack Price Juvenile in November at Calder. Sir Oscar also defeated another Wolfson trainee, Zakocity, in one of the Florida Stallion Stakes.
"His determination," Wolfson said when asked what he liked about Sir Oscar. "His action is not that of a perfect horse - he throws his right leg out when he runs - but he really digs down. I never thought he could beat Wynn Dot Comma going seven-eighths, but he stalked and pounced on him."
Wolfson isn't sure Sir Oscar can beat the likes of Read the Footnotes and Value Plus, but "I'm going in confident that he'll run very well," he said.
Wolfson should be confident that Wynn Dot Comma will run well in the Swale. Sure, he takes on graded stakes winners Eurosilver and Chapel Royal, but Wynn Dot Comma is 5 for 7 and comes off a troubled-trip fourth in the Grade 2 Hutcheson last month. Before that he won the Grade 3 Spectacular Bid, overcoming a very wide trip.
In the Hutcheson, Wynn Dot Comma was steadied down the backstretch, stopped at the quarter pole, and had to rally four wide while Limehouse and Deputy Storm got away from him.
"I'm not saying he would have won, but if he was laying second where he should have been he would have hung right on Deputy Storm," Wolfson said. "Limehouse came on and won it, and I don't know if we would have beat that horse.''
In the Swale, Wolfson said Wynn Dot Comma "will lay closer. He ran 44 and three, 57 and two as a 2-year-old on the lead. I can't see him further back than second or third stalking," he said.
Cajun Beat ready for Dubai
Cajun Beat, the Breeders' Cup Sprint winner, drilled six furlongs in 1:13.20 Thursday morning at Palm Meadows, as he continues preparation for a start in the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen on March 27.
Cajun Beat, along with the other south Florida-based horses heading to Dubai, was scheduled to fly out on Saturday afternoon.
"He worked really good,'' trainer Steve Margolis said. "Then he galloped out the seven-eighths in 1:28 and two all on his own.''
Cajun Beat has run two strong races this winter at Gulfstream. He won the Mr. Prospector Handicap on opening day and finished second behind Alke, a horse to whom he was conceding 10 pounds, in the Deputy Minister Handicap on Feb. 7.
"We gave him a little freshening, which I don't know if he needed," Margolis said. "The horse couldn't be doing any better physically. Mentally, he's in top shape, and everybody feels we're in real good position."
Margolis was scheduled to leave for Dubai on Friday and planned to spend the entire two weeks there.
Alke, who has won four straight races, breezed a half-mile in 48 seconds Thursday. He also will run in the Dubai Golden Shaheen. Host, working for the UAE Derby, went five furlongs in 1:01.60. Those two, along with Harmony Lodge and Hard Buck, are the other south Florida horses heading to Dubai.
Dedication's swan song
Dedication, a Group 1 winner against males in France, will make the final start of her career in Saturday's $60,000 Marshua's River Stakes for fillies and mares at one mile on turf.
Trainer Christophe Clement said Dedication would be bred later this spring.
Dedication, a French-bred, came to Clement last year, but has managed only one win from six starts, and that came in allowance company. She lost to Heat Haze by only a neck when she ran third in the Grade 1 Matriarch last November at Hollywood Park.
"She's been a very unlucky filly," Clement said. "In the Noble Damsel, she made the lead a bit too quickly and was very aggressive. In the Matriarch, she ran a huge race and was only beaten a neck and a nose to Heat Haze. Unfortunately, she will become a broodmare after this.''
Before finishing last in the Grade 3 Shirley Jones Handicap last month, Dedication had made all of her previous starts on turf.
"There was nothing [on turf] for her in February," Clement said. "She always trained well on dirt, so I said we'll give it a try. If it was a mistake, no problem, we'll go back to the turf."
Short field for Rampart
Sightseek, the probable favorite for Sunday's Grade 2, $200,000 Rampart Handicap, arrived here from Southern California on Wednesday. She simply walked the shed row on Thursday.
Sightseek won four consecutive Grade 1 races last year, but finished fourth as the favorite in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. She also ran fourth in the Grade 1 Santa Monica. Sightseek, trained by Bobby Frankel, will be the 121-pound starting highweight in the nine-furlong Rampart.
The only other confirmed runners as of Thursday were Roar Emotion, the Sabin Handicap winner, and Lead Story, third in the Sabin. Scapade is possible.
Second of June mending nicely
Second of June became the first casualty on this year's Kentucky Derby trail when he came out of his game second-place finish to Read the Footnotes in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes with a condylar fracture of his cannon bone. But trainer Bill Cesare reports his horse is already well on the road to recover.
Second of June underwent surgery the morning after the Fountain of Youth. Three screws were used to fuse the fracture, which was not displaced.
"They took X-rays 15 days after his surgery and you couldn't see the fracture line it's healing so well," said Cesare, who has kept Second of June with him at Calder during the recuperation process. "They'll take another set of X-rays in about a month, and if they look okay he can start shed-rowing once again. If all went well I could have him galloping sometime in May. My vet said if I follow his instructions this horse would come back better than ever."
- additional reporting by Mike Welsch