09/12/2013 4:35PM

Gulfstream: Much-improved Grande Shores stretches out for Montbrook

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Black Diamond Cat owns two stakes victories this season, including the Ponche Handicap in June.

HALLANDALE BACH, Fla. – Seven months ago, Grande Shores was running in $8,000 claiming races at Tampa Bay Downs. On Saturday, Grande Shores will compete for a $100,000 purse at Gulfstream Park as one of the favorites in the one-mile Montbrook Stakes.

Grand Shores was always cut out to be a good horse. As a 2-year-old, he finished second behind Gourmet Dinner in Calder’s Dr. Fager Stakes. But shortly thereafter, he was stricken with a chronic case of colitis that nearly claimed his life.

“He was a very sick horse and probably should have died,” said Stanley Gold, who trains Grande Shores for owner and breeder Fred Brei. “Even after he returned to the races, he was never able to physically realize the potential he had shown early in his career. It took him a long time to fight it, but he finally turned the corner this winter at Tampa, and if you look at him now, he’s the picture of health.”

Grand Shores won a pair of $8,000 claiming races last winter at Tampa and has steadily risen up the class ranks ever since. He finished third, beaten 2 1/4 lengths by Black Diamond Cat, when finally returning to stakes company earlier this year at Calder in the Ponche Handicap. He then followed that effort with a pair of allowance victories going six furlongs.

“I would have preferred that the six-furlong stakes I’d entered him in last weekend filled,” Gold said. “But he’s worked great for this race.”

Grande Shores, who outworked his Grade 1-winning stablemate, Jackson Bend, on several occasions earlier this year, has posted a trio of bullet drills at Calder in preparation for the Montbrook, including five furlongs in 59.80 seconds Aug. 30.

Black Diamond Cat, who has risen to the upper echelon of the local sprint division with victories in both the Ponche and Housebuster Stakes here, will carry the high weight of 123 pounds under the allowance conditions of the Montbrook. Although most proficient at distances ranging between six and seven furlongs, Black Diamond Cat finished a good second after setting a fast pace going a mile during the 2013 Gulfstream winter meet.

Sr. Quisqueyano likely will be a tepid favorite in the Montbrook off his game neck decision over Where’s Sterling in the Eight Miles East Stakes on Aug. 24. Making his first start against older horses, Sr. Quisqueyano was allowed to cruise alone on the lead before narrowly holding on to earn his first victory since dominating the Calder Derby nearly five months earlier.

Majestic Express, idle since posting an easy one-mile allowance win here July 20; the multiple stakes-placed Megamove; and outsiders Joshua’s Comprise, Imperial Czar, and Timeless Indy complete the field.