12/21/2011 2:44PM

Gulfstream: Boys At Tosconova gets a prep before climbing into stakes company

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Boys At Tosconova will prep for a possible start in the Grade 3 Hal's Hope on Jan. 14 in a one-mile optional claiming race Thursday.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. said he doesn’t feel Boys At Tosconova is ready to return to prime time just yet, a thought process which makes Friday’s third-level optional $80,000 claiming feature at Gulfstream Park just what the doctor ordered to prepare the Grade 1 winner for prospective stakes opportunities here later this winter.

Boys At Tosconova was overshadowed only by the ominous presence ofUncle Mo during a 2-year-old campaign in which he won the Grade 1 Hopeful and finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. An ankle issue forced Boys At Tosconova to miss the majority of his 3-year-old season, keeping him sidelined until Oct. 8, when he finished third as the 3-5 favorite in a mid-level optional claimer at Belmont Park. He finally got back on the winning track for the first time since the Hopeful by defeating slightly softer optional claiming competition five weeks later at Aqueduct.

“The first two races he ran off the bench were not as impressive as the three races he ran for us as a baby,” said Dutrow. “Those were three huge races. I haven’t seen him run like that since he’s been back but I know he’s training like he will. And when he does we’ll start pointing for bigger and better things.”

Friday’s main event will mark the first time Boys At Tosconova has run a mile.

“I’m happy with this spot, a mile around one turn,” said Dutrow. “In fact he might turn out to be a one-turn mile horse. We’ll get by this one first and then look at races down the road, perhaps the Hal’s Hope.”

The Grade 3 Hal’s Hope will be decided at a mile here on Jan. 14.

Boys At Tosconova figures to go off as the odds-on favorite against five rivals, the best of whom are Where’s Sterling and Nacho Friend.

Where’s Sterling has not started since finishing second, a half-length behind Headache, in the Grade 2 Hawthorne Gold Cup on Oct. 8. Where’s Sterling had captured Monmouth Park’s Grade 3 Iselin going 1 1/8 miles six weeks earlier for owner Frank Calabrese and trainer Nick Canani.

“We’re hoping to use this race as a prep for the Donn,” said Calabrese.

The Grade 1 Donn is run at 1 1/8 miles on Feb. 11.

Trainer Kelly Breen will drop Nacho Friend in under an $80,000 claiming tag off a very disappointing effort in the Grade 3 Ack Ack Handicap at Churchill Downs. Nacho’s Friend had his best chances in the Ack Ack somewhat compromised after hopping at the break. He is graded stakes placed, having finished third in the Grade 2 West Virginia Derby at 3.

“He’s been a little bit of a puzzle,” Breen said. “And I just want to see if he will rebound here off his last past performance. We’ve got to beat Dutrow’s horse, that’s the name of this game, and the post position helps us because we’ll break outside of Rick’s horse, who I believe will be on the lead.”

Hollinger will make his first start on dirt for trainer Roger Attfield. The Canadian-bred Hollinger is coming off a third-place finish in Calder’s Grade 3 Tropical Turf Handicap.