02/11/2009 12:00AM

Formidable takes on winners


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - When handicapping a first-level allowance race for older horses, does one lean toward the less experienced runners coming off big maiden wins or toward stakes-proven types still looking to get through their allowance conditions?

That question becomes relevant for those trying to find the winner of Friday's intriguing, $42,000 main event at Gulfstream Park, a race that will pit Formidable, a very impressive maiden winner earlier in the meet, and Lion Lord, who has not started since winning his maiden at first asking here a year ago, against the graded-stakes-placed pair of The Roundhouse and Vacation.

Formidable sizzled in the morning and fizzled in the afternoon last summer and fall in New York before finally running to his potential by trouncing maiden special weight opposition in his local debut Jan. 9. The performance earned the half-brother to multiple graded-stakes winner Medallist a 95 Beyer Speed Figure.

"We had to stop on him several times due to shin problems when he was younger and then he had foot problems once we got him started," said Allen Jerkens, who trains the homebred Formidable for Robert Clay. "But he's a beautiful horse, his brother was pretty good, and I still have hopes that he'll turn out to be a good horse."

Lion Lord is even more fashionably bred than Formidable, being kin to 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper as well as the speedy Grade 1 winner City Zip. Lion Lord overcame a rough trip to win his only previous start by a nose last winter and has trained forwardly at Palm Meadows in preparation for his return.

The Roundhouse has been away longer than Lion Lord, his last start coming in the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland during fall 2007. Prior to his sixth-place finish in the Futurity, The Roundhouse had been second in the Saratoga Special and third in the Sanford, both Grade 2 races, earlier that summer. He too has been working regularly this winter at Palm Meadows.

Vacation matched Formidable's 95 Beyer in his 3-year-old finale when he missed by a nose to National Pride going a mile in Aqueduct's Pass the Tab Stakes. The outing was the first on conventional dirt in more than six months for Formidable, a son of Dynaformer. Vacation, a half-brother to the multiple graded-stakes winner Boca Grande, turned in his best efforts last year on turf, including a second-place finish in Saratoga's Grade 3 Saranac.