04/01/2011 4:50PM

Gulfstream: Drosselmeyer continues comeback in Skip Away


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – The hurdles for Drosselmeyer in his return were not insignificant. He hadn’t raced in nine months since winning the Belmont Stakes, was running over a Tampa Bay Downs strip that can be a bit quirky to those who don’t train there, and was competing at a distance that was probably short of his best.

Add in a wide trip and the fact the race was run in stakes-record time, and Drosselmeyer’s fourth-place finish to Colizeo in the Challenger Stakes on March 5 may not have been so terrible. He was beaten 6 1/2 lengths.

Sunday, Drosselmeyer makes his second start off the layoff against Colizeo and nine others in the Grade 3, $100,000 Skip Away Stakes at Gulfstream Park. The Skip Away is run at 1 3/16 miles.

“I pretty much knew he would need a race,” said Bill Mott, who trains Drosselmeyer for WinStar Farm. “I thought we might be second in that race; we were fourth and he was just starting to run at the wire.”

Drosselmeyer, who had an extremely wide trip down the backside in the Challenger, will break from the rail on Sunday under Garrett Gomez.

Colizeo, trained by Todd Pletcher, came off a four-month layoff to win the Challenger by four lengths in a stakes record time of 1:42.94 for 1 1/16 miles. Pletcher believes Colizeo could be on the verge of joining the upper echelon of the handicap division, though he must prove he can get 1 3/16 miles.

“That would be my main concern,” Pletcher said. “He’s strong enough where he can get it, but some of his best races have been at a mile or a mile and a sixteenth.”

Jardim, second in the Challenger, and Gabriel’s Hill, a winner at 10 furlongs here last winter, look to be best suited to get the distance.

Trainer Nick Zito sends out the uncoupled entry of Our Dark Knight and S.S. Stone, while a former Zito charge, Jackson Bend, is also in this field.

Appleton: Cherokee Artist’s spot

Throughout a 26-race career that began in 2008, the 6-year-old Cherokee Artist has shown a propensity to fire his best shot in the third start of a layoff. If that trend continues, Cherokee Artist could be a value play in a contentious renewal of the Grade 3, $100,000 Appleton Stakes at one mile on the turf.

Cherokee Artist has two wins and two seconds – including a head loss to the graded stakes winner Courageous Cat in the Grade 2 Canadian Turf here last year – when making the third start of his form cycle. The Appleton represents Cherokee Artist’s third race after two narrow defeats in allowance company here this winter.

Moreover, Cherokee Artist is reunited with Ramon Dominguez, who is 3 for 4 on him with the one loss coming after a terrible start in last summer’s Grade 3 Oceanport Stakes at Monmouth Park.

“I really hadn’t planned on running in it, it’s a little bit quick, but he’s run two bang-up races since his break and he really likes this course, and I felt I wanted to take advantage of that,” trainer Graham Motion said.

Little Mike, a two-time stakes winner over the Gulfstream course this winter, is the horse to catch and beat. He is coming off a spectacular 1 1/2-length victory in the Grade 3 Canadian Turf Stakes in which he ran a mile in 1:32.37, earning a career best Beyer Speed Figure of 101.

“He ran awful freaky last time,” trainer Dale Romans said. “He’s trained great in between.”

Little Mike has the rail, which the speedy gelding could use to his advantage in attempting to avoid a speed duel with Successful Mission, who breaks from post 7.

“He’s quick enough to clear them all and keep right on going,” Romans said.

Mikoshi, who won a high-class allowance race on Feb. 26, and Asphalt, who was fourth, beaten a neck in that same spot, are also contenders.

Sayif ran Friday at Gulfstream, so he is expected to scratch out of the Appleton.