02/04/2012 3:40PM

Gulfstream: Emcee impressive winning second start


Emcee put on quite a show at Gulfstream Park on Friday, cruising to an easy victory over Grade 1-placed and odds-on favorite Associate under John Velazquez in the afternoon’s $53,500 allowance feature. The win was the second in as many starts for Emcee, a son of Unbridled’s Song who won his maiden by 4 1/2 lengths at Belmont Park on Sept. 14.

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who flew to New York earlier Friday to saddle Alpha in Saturday’s Withers, is fortunate to still have Emcee in his barn. According to his brother and assistant, Neal McLaughlin, Emcee, a Darley Stable homebred, was scheduled to go to Dubai in December but had his trip canceled after he got sick while quarantined prior to the flight.

“He came down with a temperature and they took him out of quarantine and sent him back to our barn,” McLaughlin said in the winner’s circle immediately after the race. “We’ve always like this horse. He showed us a ton of ability right from the start. Johnny said today that distance should not be a problem. He could be anything.”

Force Freeze tunes up for Sprint

Force Freeze worked six furlongs in 1:10.86 under jockey Paco Lopez on Saturday in his final major prep for the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship on Feb. 18. The Gulfstream Sprint will be his first start since he finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

Force Freeze broke off at the six-furlong pole and posted splits of 23.34 seconds for his opening quarter and 34.66 for a half before galloping out seven-eighths in 1:24.30.

“He went a little fast early but he probably saw that long straightaway in front of him breaking off at the six and did have a bit of a tailwind at his back as well,” said drainer Peter Walder.

Force Freeze was followed a short while later by stablemate Lacie Slew, who worked five-eighths in 59.04 going in company with Evil Powder. Lacie Slew, beaten slightly more than two lengths in the Grade 2 Chilukki Stakes at Churchill Downs in November, will head north for her next start in Laurel’s Maryland Racing Media Stakes on Feb. 11.

◗ Preakness winner Shackleford worked about 90 minutes earlier than usual on Saturday, going five furlongs in 1:01.44 shortly after the first renovation break. Shackleford, who posted splits of 25.01 and 37.23, galloped out six furlongs in 1:14 and change while remaining on schedule to make his 2012 debut next Saturday in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap.

◗ Trainer Luis Olivares would not commit but said it was possible Tackleberry could return to defend his title in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship on Feb. 18. Tackleberry, who won both the seven-furlong Sprint and one-mile Gulfstream Park Handicap in 2011, breezed a half-mile in 48.60 seconds at Calder on Saturday. The work was the third for Tackleberry since he re-joined Olivares’s stable earlier this winter.