03/31/2016 3:10PM

Gulfstream Oaks distance the main hurdle for Off the Tracks

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Barbara D. Livingston
Off the Tracks goes two turns for the first time in the Gulfstream Park Oaks on Saturday.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Off the Tracks, unbeaten in three starts sprinting, will try to prove herself equally effective around two turns when she heads a field of seven in Saturday’s $250,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks for 3-year-old fillies at Gulfstream Park.

The Gulfstream Oaks, at 1 1/16 miles, offers 170 qualifying points (100-40-20-10) toward the Kentucky Oaks at 1 1/8 miles at Churchill Downs on May 6. Off the Tracks will try to prove that she belongs in the Kentucky Oaks, where she’ll compete against the likes of Songbird and Cathryn Sophia, the clear division leaders.

In the Gulfstream Oaks, Off the Tracks will be making her first start for trainer Todd Pletcher, who has won four of the last six runnings of this race. Samantha and Maurice Regan, who race under the banner of Newtown Anner Stud, purchased a majority interest in the filly following her 4 1/4-length victory in the Margate Handicap here on Feb. 21. That was her first race since she won the Grade 3 Schuylerville at Saratoga. She was sidelined due to a knee injury.

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Off the Tracks is a daughter of Curlin. Her pedigree, plus the way she trains, gives Pletcher confidence that the filly can handle a distance of ground.

“Pedigree-wise, if anything, it was a surprise she’s been as precocious as she was and been able to win short races,” Pletcher said. “She’s a nice filly to train, and she put in a good work for us.”

The Gulfstream Park Oaks field came up rather light, which prompted trainer Doug O’Neill to ship Gomo from Southern California for her 3-year-old debut. Gomo hasn’t raced since winning the Grade 1 Alcibiades last Oct. 2 at Keeneland. She was sidelined due to a chip in an ankle that required surgery.

The remainder of the field consists of maiden winners, four of whom are facing winners for the first time.

KEY CONTENDERS

Off the Tracks, by Curlin

Last 3 Beyers: 81-83-58

◗ Breaks from the outside post in a seven-horse field, which Pletcher believes might be a good thing as she tries two turns for the first time.

“In this case, it’s probably not a bad thing,” Pletcher said. “We’ll be able to keep her face clean.”

John Velazquez, who rides Off the Tracks for the first time, is a five-time winner of this race, with three of those wins coming for Pletcher.

Gomo, by Uncle Mo

Last 3 Beyers: 74-62-72

◗ Returns from a six-month layoff going 1 1/16 miles.

“If they have the mind for it, it might be a little easier on them than the sprints, when you have to run gate to wire,” O’Neill said. “Hopefully, her mind is two-turn ready, which I think it is.”

Paola Queen, by Flatter

Last 3 Beyers: 83-81-39

◗ Stretches out around two turns off a one-length win going seven furlongs Feb. 14 in her fourth start.

“It would be better for us if we had another race between, but the allowance race she was supposed to run in didn’t go,” said Gustavo Delgado Jr., assistant trainer to his father. “We’re pretty confident she can handle the distance. The system my dad uses with his horses, the farther they go, it’s better for them.”

◗ Javier Castellano picks up the mount.