03/05/2013 3:34PM

Gulfstream Park: Aigue Marine starts campaign on Thursday


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Galileo has been Europe’s champion sire for the past three seasons. He’s also going to have a major influence on Thursday’s $57,500 main event at Gulfstream Park with two of his up-and-coming progeny, the English-bred Aigue Marine and Irish-foaled Twirl, likely to vie for favoritism in the 1 3/8 mile turf feature.

Trainer Christophe Clement will send out Aigue Marine, who began her career in France with his brother Nicolas. Aigue Marine won twice in seven starts while showing steady improvement from the standpoint of her Timeform ratings in Europe before making an auspicious U.S. debut last fall in Aqueduct’s Grade 3 Long Island Handicap. Aigue Marine finished third in the 12-furlong Long Island, beaten less than a length by winner Starformer who is regarded as one of the leaders of her division following her recent victory here in the Grade 3 The Very One Stakes.

Nicolas Clement turned Aigue Marine over to his younger brother Christophe following the Long Island. She has been prepared for her local bow at Clement’s winter home at Payson Park, where she’s recorded five workouts since Jan. 23.

“She had a good start in New York in the Long Island and she’s been doing good and training well since she came down here,” Clement said. “She is here to race all year long, not to be bred during the spring.”

Jose Lezcano will have the call on Aigue Marine, who breaks from the rail, an advantageous post considering the short run to the first turn in 1 3/8-mile grass races at Gulfstream.

Twirl also has spent the winter at Payson. Trained by Bill Mott, she did all her racing in England and Ireland prior to moving to the United States last fall. Twirl was a bit more accomplished in Europe than Aigue Marine, having been Group 3 placed on a couple of occasions early at 3. She also tested Group 1 waters to no avail a couple of times last season, with one of those starts coming in the prestigious Irish Oaks.

Twirl has run twice since shipping to North America, most recently finishing second behind the highly regarded Kadaya under optional-claiming conditions similar to Thursday’s main event.

Scampering will try turf and stretch out around three turns for the first time. Trained by Shug McGaughey, the improving daughter of Afleet Alex has not started since adding blinkers and registering a game first-level optional-claiming win going nine furlongs in her 3-year-old finale at Aqueduct in early November. Scampering has been training forwardly for her return over both the main and turf courses this winter at Gulfstream.

Return of Calistoga

Calistoga, one of a handful of exciting 3-year-old filly prospects Mott has bedded down at Payson, makes her second start Thursday. Calistoga will be an overwhelming favorite in the fourth race, a first-level optional claimer at 6 1/2 furlongs on the main track.

Calistoga launched her career with a sensational 5 1/2-length triumph here Jan. 12 for which she received a 97 Beyer Speed Figure.