01/24/2012 3:02PM

Gulfstream Park: Almusafa steps back on the turf


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Following a solid debut win at Aqueduct in late November, Almusafa attempted the always difficult step up in class when put into a stakes race for her second start.

Though beaten only 1 1/4 lengths when fifth in the Ginger Brew Stakes here on Christmas Eve, Almusafa now drops in class when she heads a nine-horse field entered to run in a first-level optional claimer Thursday at Gulfstream Park. The 1 1/16-mile turf race for 3-year-old fillies is the featured event on a 10-race card that begins at 12:35 p.m. Eastern.

Almusafa, a daughter of the Great Britain-bred sire Haafhd, is the only member of this nine-horse field who is taking a class drop. She won her debut on turf at Aqueduct by two lengths in late November, before running against more seasoned opponents in the $60,000 Ginger Brew. In that race, Almusafa was a stalking third, but got outfinished down the lane and was beaten a total of 1 1/4 lengths by Frolic’s Revenge, who was making her eighth career start in that race.

“I thought she had a really good trip, and she had everything there to go finish and she just didn’t,” Kiaran McLaughlin, trainer of Almusafa, said. “I thought she would have finished better in the race, but she only got beat [1 1/4] lengths and it was a stakes, so now we’re back to an a-other-than.”

McLaughlin said he was intending to wait for a similar race on Feb. 8, but decided to enter here when it looked like this race might come up light in numbers. The change of heart is why Jose Lezcano is not riding Almusafa and John Velazquez is.

Lezcano is named to ride Holiday Broad, one of two multiple winners in the field. Holiday Broad is 2 for 2 on turf, including a win against maiden claimers at Belmont in October and a starter allowance here Dec. 31 going 7 1/2 furlongs. She will likely use her speed to gain a forward position from the outside post.

Sandy Key Gal is the other horse to have won twice, including a victory in this condition on Dec. 18 when she was offered for the optional claiming tag of $75,000. She is not in for the claiming tag Thursday.

Sweet and Lovely comes off a maiden win Jan. 2 over this course and distance. It was a nice rebound effort from an inexplicable ninth-place finish in a maiden race at Churchill on Oct. 30.

“I don’t know what happened,” trainer Ian Wilkes said when asked what went awry that day. “We gave her a little break, freshened her up, and ran her back. They went very slow in the race, but she finished up very good. I was very pleased with the race.”

St Pancras, Taxi Dancer, Ten K Cat, Singn On Themoon, and Quick Silver Song complete the field.