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Forward Gal no walkover for 'Madcap'
HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - While the presence of Madcap Escapade will keep the field for Saturday's $150,000 Forward Gal Stakes to five or six runners, there will be at least two formidable foes to challenge her in the Grade 2 race.
La Reina and Wacky Patty, both of whom won graded stakes in 2003, will take on Madcap Escapade in the seven-furlong Forward Gal, one of four undercard stakes on Florida Derby Day at Gulfstream Park.
The Forward Gal will be La Reina's first start since she was beaten a nose by Ashado in the Grade 2 Demoiselle at Aqueduct. Trainer Shug McGaughey said he had always intended to start La Reina's 3-year-old campaign in the Forward Gal.
"This was the plan all along," McGaughey said. "I'm trying to get to the bigger races, and I felt this was the best way to get her to her next start."
In a perfect world, the Forward Gal would get La Reina to the Grade 1 Ashland at Keeneland on April 3 and then the Kentucky Oaks on April 30. La Reina, a daughter of A.P. Indy out of the Grade 1 winning mare Queena, won the Grade 3 Tempted last year before the loss to Ashado, who made a smashing 3-year-old debut in last weekend's Fair Grounds Oaks.
"She looks great, she's gotten bigger, she's matured, all of her works down here have been very good," McGaughey said. "I think she'll be a formidable foe, but [seven furlongs] is not what we're looking to do."
John Velazquez will ride La Reina.
Meanwhile, Wacky Patty worked a sharp half-mile Tuesday morning in 47.20 seconds at Gulfstream, the fastest of 21 at the distance. Wacky Patty, who won the Grade 3 Landaluce Stakes at Hollywood Park last fall, is coming off a neck loss in the Sunshine Millions Oaks here on Jan. 24. Wacky Patty was trained by Cole Norman then, but will run Saturday for Steve Asmussen.
According to John Fahey, Asmussen's south Florida assistant, Wacky Patty has been in Florida for almost four weeks.
"It was a learning process, her getting to know us, us getting to know her, and I don't see how it could have gone any smoother," Fahey said. "She's very manageable with a good filly attitude. She's a little bossy. Most of the better fillies have a bossy way about them."
Cornelio Velasquez will ride Wacky Patty in the Forward Gal.
Others being considered for the race are Menifeeque, and either Irish Melody or Platinum Heights.
Farnum Alley, Frisky Spider likely for Derby
The connections of Farnum Alley and Frisky Spider sounded Tuesday as though they would run their 3-year-olds in Saturday's $1 million Florida Derby.
Farnum Alley, who is 2 for 4 despite coming off a poor effort in a Feb. 14 allowance race, worked five furlongs in 1:00.60 at Palm Meadows on Tuesday. Reinstedler was happy with the work and said he wanted to check out the jockey situation before making a final decision. As of Tuesday, Cornelio Velasquez, Jose Santos, and Pat Day were open.
"The bottom line is I want to be comfortable with all aspects of it," said Reinstedler, who noted that his horse acted badly in the paddock before his last start. "I'm the kind of guy who goes day by day, and right now I'm a go, but let's just see how everything plays out in the next 48 hours."
Meanwhile, Bob Durso, the trainer of Frisky Spider, said, "I'm still leaning toward the Derby" over the Swale. Durso said he believes Frisky Spider is a true two-turn horse and that he had an excuse when he finished seventh in the Fountain of Youth.
"He had a little bug in him,'' Durso said. "His father [Frisk Me Now] ran bad in the Fountain of Youth, and he came out of the race with mucous, and he wound up third beaten 2 1/2 lengths in the Florida Derby. He ran one of his best races that day."
That was in 1997, when Frisk Me Now finished behind Captain Bodgit and Pulpit in the Florida Derby.
Those two horses plus the possibility of Notorious Rogue being entered would swell the Florida Derby field nine. The other six are Read the Footnotes, Value Plus, Tapit, The Cliff's Edge, Sir Oscar, and Friends Lake. Entries were to be drawn Wednesday.
Nonsuch Bay holds off on Rampart Handicap
Trainer Frank Alexander said it's unlikely that Nonsuch Bay will run in Sunday's 1 1/8-mile Rampart Handicap, despite the race's $200,000 purse, Grade 2 status, and short field.
Alexander said those temptations are still not worth sending Nonsuch Bay against highweights Sightseek or Roar Emotion, who figure to dominate the Rampart.
"I'd just assume stay away from those kind of fillies if I can this year," Alexander said. "If Sightseek happens not to come then I might decide to run her, but there's no sense going up against both of them."
Nonsuch Bay finished a distant second to Roar Emotion in the Grade 3 Sabin Handicap on Feb. 15. It was the third straight time Nonsuch Bay ran well but settled for second money, a string she started in the Grade 3 Turnback The Alarm Handicap at Aqueduct on Nov. 1. She has not won since capturing the Banshee Breeze Handicap here last winter.
"One option would be to just wait and run her back in the Banshee Breeze again," Alexander said.
Alexander is not the only one looking to avoid Sightseek and Roar Emotion. As of Tuesday, the only other horse committed to the Rampart was Lead Story, who finished a late-running third in the Sabin.
Roar Emotion worked four furlongs in 49.60 seconds at Palm Meadows on Tuesday. She will carry 118 pounds in the Rampart, three fewer than Sightseek.
At Hollywood Park on Tuesday, Sightseek completed her preparation for the Rampart with a brilliant, effortless, five-furlong workout under exercise rider Marco Ramirez. Sightseek was never under pressure throughout, but was timed in 59 seconds, the best time of 20 at the distance Tuesday morning.
"She couldn't be doing any better right now," trainer Bobby Frankel said. "If she gets beat there, I'm just going to have to retire her."
Frankel said he believes Sightseek's poor recent performances are the product of racing at Santa Anita, where she has never won. "She just doesn't like that track," Frankel said.
Sightseek was scheduled to be flown to Florida on Tuesday night.
Hills happy with Mooji Moo
Trainer Tim Hills was surprisingly upbeat despite the tough loss he suffered Sunday, when Mooji Moo was run down by favored House Party in the final strides of the $100,000 Hurricane Bertie Stakes.
"My box is at the sixteenth pole, and when they passed by me I really thought we had it won," Hills said. "That other filly just ran us down. My horse never quit. It doesn't hurt quite as much, though, when you get beat by a really good horse who is trained by a really great guy like Allen Jerkens."
In the months ahead, Hills said his major objective for Mooji Moo will be Calder's Grade 2, $500,000 Princess Rooney Handicap in July.
"That's a very attractive spot," Hills said. "It's a Grade 2 for a lot of money, and I think my filly has proven she belongs in that category now."
Storm Flag Flying likely for Distaff
McGaughey said Storm Flag Flying, who made a successful return to the races last month, is likely to make her next start in the Grade 2, $150,000 Distaff Breeders' Cup Handicap at Aqueduct.
McGaughey said he will also nominate her to the Apple Blossom at Oaklawn on April 3, but would probably only run there if he deemed it a softer spot than the Distaff. Wild Spirit heads the list of fillies who are considering the Apple Blossom, and Randaroo seems like the tough rival in the Distaff.
"She's already a Grade 1 winner. She's earned over a million dollars. I'd like to make it as easy as I can to get her to the summer races," McGaughey said, referring to Grade 1 races such as the Ogden Phipps in June and the Go for Wand in July.
Storm Flag Flying was the 2-year-old champion filly of 2002, winning all four of her starts, including the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. She lost both of her starts last year, but won her 4-year-old debut by 3 3/4 lengths Feb. 26, earning a 92 Beyer Speed Figure.
Ziadie's surgery goes well
Trainer Ralph Ziadie is recuperating at home after undergoing surgery last week to remove a kidney.
"I'm in a lot of pain but the surgery was a success," Ziadie said. "I won't get the pathology report until later this week."
Ziadie's operation came only days after his Kentucky Derby hopeful Silver Wagon underwent surgery to remove chips from his knees. Trust N Luck, whom Ziadie trains, finished second behind Empire Maker in the 2003 Florida Derby.
"The only complaint I have is that I'm home sick and can't watch my horses run on television because Gulfstream won't allow them on TVG," Ziadie said.
- Additional reporting by Jay Privman and David Grening