12/07/2011 4:46PM

Gulfstream: Desert Sage taking drop


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla – Trainer Todd Pletcher has won eight straight Gulfstream Park training titles. If anyone is going to stop him from winning a ninth it might be Chad Brown, who will have nearly 90 horses stabled at the Palm Meadows training center this winter.

Brown’s deep arsenal includes the Grade 3 stakes-placed Desert Sage, who figures to stand some beating dropping back against allowance competition for Friday’s $60,000 main event at Gulfstream Park. The headliner is scheduled to be run at 1 1/16 miles over the outer turf course.

Desert Sage has not started since finishing sixth, beaten less than five lengths, in Saratoga’s Grade 2 Ballston Spa on Aug. 27. An English-bred daughter of Selkirk, she won her U.S. debut here under entry-level allowance conditions in March and was second later last spring in Pimlico’s Grade 3 Gallorette.

“She wasn’t looking as well physically this fall as at the beginning of the year so we just freshened her up a little bit, re-routed her this way, and kind of started all over again,” said Brown. “The rider took a little too much hold and she got a little too far back in her last start. She might have been a little overmatched as well, although overall it wasn’t a bad effort. We already know she likes this course, and I think we’ll be able to get her on track again down here this winter.”

Only seven fillies and mares were entered for Friday’s main event, including Sweet N Sour Nina who will run only if the race is switched to the main track. The remainder of the lineup includes Clarinet, Dancing Rage, Unbridled Essence, Cougar at Heart, and Dyani. Dyani is also a stakes-tested mare who gets some needed class relief, returning to the allowance ranks for the first time since registering an easy last to first, 3 1/2-length victory at Ellis Park in mid-July. Trainer Eddie Kenneally stretched Dyani out to distances of 11 and 12 furlongs for her last three starts, which included a fourth-place finish in Saratoga’s Grade 3 Glens Falls.

Clarinet will make his first start in nearly 14 months for trainer Graham Motion, having been idle since winning a second-level allowance race going 1 1/2 miles at Keeneland in October of 2010.

Cougar At Heart figures to control the pace in a race lacking much in the way of any real early speed, but will be facing much better competition than she has encountered in any of her five previous starts on grass.