04/03/2013 12:55PM

Gulfstream Park: Closing day offers $560,000 in purse money

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Christmas has come in April – specifically Friday, April 5 – for owners, trainers, and jockeys who have stuck it out to the very end of the 2012-13 Gulfstream Park meeting. Due to an underpayment in the purse account, Gulfstream will give away more than $560,000 on its 13-race closing-day card, with nary a stakes race on the docket. The biggest slice of that pie is the $62,100 up for grabs in the fifth race, an optional $62,500 claiming race for fillies and mares going 1 3/8 miles on turf.

Christmas could also come on April 5 to one or more players of the 10-cent Rainbow 6, with the entire pool required to be paid out on closing day. The pool for the Rainbow 6 entering Wednesday’s card had hit $1.78 million, and it could climb as high as $8 million if the bet is not hit prior to Friday.

A field of eight long-winded filly and mare turf specialists was entered in the closing-day feature. Two of the eight, Beijoca and Heart of Destiny, come from the barn of trainer James Baker. The remainder of the lineup comprises Qushchi, Flashy American, Here’s d’Bride, Scampering, Blazing Honor, and Sola Gratia.

Heart of Destiny has not started since winning her entry-level allowance condition going 1 3/8 miles at Churchill Downs in her 2012 finale Nov. 14. It was the daughter of Lion Heart’s first win in 10 starts since becoming Grade 1 placed with her second-place finish in the 2011 Alcibiades at Keeneland.

“The plan was to freshen her up over the winter and bring her back this year, with the main goal of getting her to become a stakes winner to enhance her breeding career,” Baker said.

Heart of Destiny has trained forwardly for her return, with six works since Feb. 24 including a very sharp five-eighths in 1:00.20 over the turf here March 17.

“Her turf work was unbelievable, but sometimes this turf gets so quick it’s like they just seem to skim over it, and I was afraid she might not have gotten enough out of that work,” Baker said. “That’s why I brought her back and breezed her on the main track a couple of times because the dirt is deeper, she’ll get more out of it, and I wanted to make sure she’s fit when she runs on Friday.”

Baker said if Heart of Destiny runs well, she could return in the Grade 3 Bewitch at the end of the Keeneland meet later this month.

Beijoca became graded stakes placed in her first try when she rallied to finish third behind the odds-on Starformer in the Grade 3 The Very One here Feb. 16.

“That was a very good effort against a pretty decent bunch of horses,” Baker said. “I thought about running her on [Florida] Derby Day in the Orchid, but decided to drop her back in with allowance horses, get some purse money, and try to get her a stakes win sometime down the road.”

The Baker duo will likely face their stiffest challenges from Scampering and Qushchi, who finished second and third, a head apart, behind the heavily favored Aigue Marine under similar allowance conditions here March 7.

Scampering rallied belatedly and proved no match for the winner while making her first start since winning her first-level allowance condition going nine furlongs at Aqueduct 3 1/2 months earlier in her 3-year-old finale.

Quschi rallied from even further back to finish third in her U.S. debut. The 5-year-old English-bred mare is still seeking her first victory since her 2-year-old campaign.