02/07/2011 2:03PM

Exchanging Kisses, Commandeered figure to battle out front at Gulfstream

Barbara D. Livngston
Commandeered will try turf for the first time in an optional claimer Wednesday at Gulfstream Park.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – A pair of 6-year-olds who usually do their best work on the lead, Exchanging Kisses and Commandeered, could end up on an early collision course in Wednesday’s $55,000 feature event at Gulfstream Park, a second-level optional claiming race carded at a mile on the grass.

Exchanging Kisses raced with trainer Danny Miller here last winter, briefly changed barns after being haltered in June for $25,000 at Arlington Park, and then returned to his former mentor later that summer. He has won two of five starts since reuniting with Miller, including a game effort when he dead-heated for first with former stakes winner Grand Cash while racing under a $50,000 claiming tag earlier in the meet.

“He’s a nice horse who runs his race every time,” said Miller who trains Exchanging Kisses for Richard Glander. “He hung in there pretty good in his last start, that other horse had him and he came back to get a dead heat. I know Todd’s horse [Commandeered] has speed but I think mine is faster.”

Commandeered will be making his turf debut Wednesday for trainer Todd Pletcher. He also will be stretching around two turns for the first time since finishing second going a mile at Santa Anita two years earlier. Commandeered led throughout to defeat entry-level allowance types last April at Keeneland.

“He’s breezed well on turf and runs well on synthetics, so I think he’ll handle the grass,” Pletcher said. “The key is the trip, because he can be a little headstrong. Hopefully, he’ll settle.”

A speed duel between Exchanging Kisses and Commandeered could set things up for a number of others in the 11-horse field, including Raging Wit, Odds On, or Sporty.

Raging Wit showed the ability to rate, rallying to beat first-level allowance company last spring in New York. That win came one start after he opened up a 20-length lead during the middle stages of a two-turn allowance race while racing in blinkers for the only time two months earlier at Keeneland.

Odds On is a question mark trying turf for just the second time in his career. His lone grass experience came against Group 1 competition in his native Brazil during fall 2009.

Sporty earned high marks rallying from 10 lengths back to finish second against similarly conditioned optional claiming company last summer at Arlington Park. He was victimized by an eventful trip in his 2010 finale in Kentucky.