03/10/2011 3:53PM

Gulfstream Handicap attracts solid lineup, led by Tizway, Rule


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – The $300,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap was scheduled to be the marquee event here Saturday until the Timely Writer Stakes and Uncle Mo came along to steal its thunder. But the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap still attracted a marquee-type field, led by Tizway, Rule, Soaring Empire, and Tackleberry, the Cinderella horse to this point of the 2011 meeting.

In all, eight horses will contest the one-mile Gulfstream Park Handicap with the two-time Grade 2 winner Duke of Mischief, multiple Grade 1 placed Jackson Bend, Our Dark Knight, and Pulsion rounding out the very strong and competitive field.

Tizway will make his first start since finishing fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. A late developing son of Tiznow, Tizway was good at 4 but really came into his own as a 5-year-old last season for trainer James Bond, finishing third behind Quality Road in the Grade 1 Met Handicap and winning the Grade 2 Kelso Handicap by five lengths before concluding his abbreviated campaign in the Breeders’ Cup.

“I was very disappointed in the Breeders’ Cup because I thought he was the best horse in the race,” said Bond. “I was pretty upset about it. I don’t think he ran his race. I felt he moved a little too early for him. But that was last year and this is a new one so I won’t dwell on it.”

Bond gave Tizway a little time off on the farm to freshen up following the Breeders’ Cup but the horse has gotten six published works under his belt this winter at Palm Meadows, including three at six furlongs.

“He usually runs pretty well fresh,” said Bond. “This is the kind of race I was looking for to start him back. I want to keep him at a mile this year, and I’m not surprised it came up so tough. After all, this is Gulfstream.”

Rule will likely be favored despite the fact he still seeks his first win in three tries this winter. Rule finished second behind Soaring Empire following a bit of an unlucky trip in the Grade 3 Hal’s Hope to begin his campaign and third, beaten two lengths by Giant Oak, when stretching to 1 1/8 miles for the Grade 1 Donn Handicap.

Rule will break from the rail under jockey John Velazquez.

Soaring Empire had the misfortune of drawing the inside for his last start and that likely cost him a victory in the seven-furlong Gulfstream Park Sprint. He rallied to register a 1 1/4-length decision over Rule in the one-mile Hal’s Hope. Soaring Empire has a history of gate issues, and acted up again just prior to the Gulfstream Sprint, first rearing and tossing jockey Jose Lezcano before reloading and then walking out of the barrier several lengths behind the others. Soaring Empire did well to make up nearly five lengths from the top of the stretch to the wire but still fell two lengths shy of catching Tackleberry.

Tackleberry has been the Cinderella story of the meet, adding the Gulfstream Sprint to his victory just two weeks earlier in the Sunshine Millions Classic. As a result, Tackleberry was assigned high weight of 121 pounds for the Gulfstream Park Handicap.

Duke of Mischief chased but could not catch Tackleberry in the Sunshine Millions Classic and seeks his first victory since capturing Monmouth’s Grade 3 Iselin in August.

Jackson Bend has gone back to his roots, with trainer Stanley Gold, after going winless in eight starts during a 3-year-old campaign that did see him finish second in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth, second in the Grade 1 Wood, and an unlucky third in the Preakness.

Palm Beach: Wide-open race if Pluck scratches

Along with Uncle Mo in the Timely Writer, 3-year-olds will also be in the spotlight Saturday in the $150,000 Palm Beach, a Grade 3 event scheduled to be run at 1 1/8 miles on the turf.

The Palm Beach drew a field of 10, including Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner Pluck, although trainer Graham Motion cross-entered him in a one-mile allowance race at Tampa the same afternoon and said that would be his first choice.

The defection of Pluck would leave the Palm Beach a wide-open affair with Master Dunker, who was awarded the victory in the Hallandale Beach on the disqualification of King Congie, the likely favorite.

Liberty Cap, a good fourth in the Hallandale despite some issues at the gate, figures to garner plenty of support as well Queen’splatekitten, East of Danzig, and Newdad.