09/27/2013 1:41PM

Gulfstream: Nicks eager to see how Speechify handles winners in sprint feature


With his stable split between Gulfstream Park and Saratoga this summer and now into the fall, trainer Ralph Nicks has logged a lot of miles overseeing his operation. He also has picked up some new clients and several promising young horses along the way, including the 3-year-old Speechify, who will put his unblemished record on the line in Sunday’s first-level optional $25,000 claiming feature at Gulfstream.

Speechify, a son of Harlan’s Holiday owned by Team Valor International, could not have been more impressive in his debut when he cruised to a 10 1/4-length maiden special weight victory going six furlongs here on Aug. 24. He posted an 87 Beyer Speed Figure. But Speechify is certain to receive a sterner test when taking on more experienced opposition on Sunday.

“He’s obviously a very talented horse and he’s doing very well, but he won his first start so easily it’s hard to tell what he got for an education out of that race,” said Nicks, who made south Florida his permanent residence earlier this year. “You never really know what to expect when a horse goes up against winners for the first time, but I am expecting another good effort from him, and this race should be a good barometer for us as we look down the road.”

Nicks will pick up a few more frequent flyer miles when he heads back to New York again next week to watch his top 3-year-old filly, Maracuya, compete in the $100,000 Catinca, a six-furlong overnight stakes at Belmont Park on Wednesday. Maracuya, who launched her career with a pair of victories at Gulfstream last winter, is coming off a game three-quarter-length win in a second-level optional $35,000 claimer while equipped with blinkers for the first time last month at Saratoga.

“I just entered her this morning for a little overnight stakes on Wednesday and I’m looking forward to the race,” Nicks said. “It should be a good test and let us know a little more about where we stand with her right now as well.”

Nicks was one of only a handful of Northern-based trainers to keep a string of horses stabled at Gulfstream for the inaugural summer meeting this year. And thus far he is pleased with the results.

“Splitting the barn and keeping a string here has been real good for the stable overall,” Nicks said. “I’ve wound up picking up a few new horses and a few new clients on both ends. Obviously it’s meant a lot of traveling, but that’s what it takes to be successful in this game. You’ve got to stay aggressive. If you lay in one spot, you tend to wilt on the vine. It’s also been very good for our horses to have opportunities to race on different levels and I think that shows in both our win percentage and in-the-money percentage this year. Not all our horses fit in New York and not all belong in south Florida, and by being stabled on both fronts, it gives us a chance balance things out properly.”

Nicks is also looking forward to next summer when racing is expected to be held on a four-day-a-week basis at Gulfstream as opposed to this year’s two programs per week schedule.

“Hopefully we’ll have more racing days and be running for more money here next summer,” Nicks said. “I’ve bought a home near Gulfstream. My wife loves it down here, so this is where I plan to be year round although I’ll still keep a string in New York for six months during the spring and summer.”

Sanchez close to resuming riding

Hugo Sanchez, sidelined since sustaining a compressed vertebrae in his neck in a spill on July 27, started exercising horses this past week in preparation for his return to riding next month. Sanchez was the leading rider at Gulfstream with 11 wins at the time of the accident.

“I’m feeling better now, way better,” Sanchez said. “I just started going to the track this week to gallop a couple horses to get fit. I plan to breeze a couple next week.”

Sanchez won’t return to afternoon action before his next doctor’s appointment on Oct. 15. The 21-year-old jockey said it felt great to get back up on a horse this week, but that he didn’t want to rush his recovery.

“I have just been taking it easy at home,” Sanchez said. “It’s just taken a little time so I can recover, so when I come back, I’ll be able to ride the same as I did before I got hurt.”