01/22/2013 3:25PM

Gulfstream Park: Chee takes first shot at winners in Thursday optional claimer

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Bob Coglianese
Chee will be among the favorites in Thursday's $54,500 optional claiming feature at Gulfstream Park.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – What Chee lacks in experience he may well make up for in pure talent when he goes postward among the favorites in Thursday’s $54,500 optional claiming feature carded at a mile at Gulfstream Park.

Chee did not launch his career until the final month of his 3-year-old season, but was very impressive in his belated debut. Running to his backing when bet to even money right off the bench, Chee rallied from just off the pace to a 2 1/4-length maiden special weight victory when sent seven furlongs Dec. 19. A son of Empire Maker, Chee is trained by Todd Pletcher for celebrity chef Bobby Flay.

“He’s a horse who we liked the way he trained before his first race,” Pletcher said. “And the way he’s bred, stretching him out is what he’s looking for. I think he’ll ultimately be better around two turns, so I’m really looking forward to stretching him out on Thursday.”

Pletcher said Chee had some issues earlier in his career that continued to delay his debut.

“We got him in a couple of times, and we had to give him a couple of breaks,” Pletcher said. “Hopefully, we’ve got that behind us now and can move forward from here.”

Only Street Thug, among Chee’s seven rivals in the main event, has had less than five starts coming into the race. Street Thug has run just three times, posting a win and two seconds during an eight-week period last spring before going to the sidelines after getting beat a half-length following a game effort in a well-graded entry-level allowance race going a mile May 26.

Street Thug was one of the horses recently transferred from trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. to his former assistant Michelle Nevin.

Bartolome and Moon Traveler finished third and fifth, respectively, behind the highly regarded Cigar Street in a well-graded optional claiming race at 1 1/16 miles on Dec. 27.

Bartolome rallied to within striking distance in early stretch before proving no match for Cigar Street and the odds-on runner-up Fast Falcon when returning from a near 10-month hiatus in his 3-year-old finale. Thursday’s outing will mark Bartolome’s first start around only one turn.

Moon Traveler, like Bartolome, earned a career-best Beyer Speed figure in his last start while also returning from a lengthy vacation. Stakes placed earlier at 3, Moon Traveler was running for the first time since registering a good-looking, come-from-behind, four-length maiden win at Churchill Downs on May 19.

Big Screen, winless in six starts since capturing his 2-year-old finale 13 months earlier; Dan and Sheila, a graded stakes-caliber performer earlier in his career when with Pletcher; the consistent Kanagaro; and class-dropping Kings Over complete the field.