03/27/2013 2:04PM

Gulfstream Park: Dreaming of Neno back on dirt Friday after lackluster turf try


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – After a failed turf experiment, Dreaming of Neno returns to dirt and looms as the horse to catch in Friday’s $62,100 optional-claiming feature at Gulfstream Park.

Two starts back, Dreaming of Neno finished third in this condition behind Discreet Dancer and Candyman E. Discreet Dancer came back to win the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap, while Candyman E came back to win the Bensalem Stakes at Parx Racing.

Meanwhile, Dreaming of Neno ran back in a second-level allowance on turf, where he finished sixth, beaten 10 lengths. He was tried on turf based on a strong five-furlong workout in 58.40 seconds over the Gulfstream course Feb. 24.

“He didn’t try,” said Luis Ramirez, who trains Dreaming of Neno for Frank Calabrese. “Funny thing is, he had breezed so good.”

Ramirez said Dreaming of Neno was none the worse for the turf non-effort, and he has him back sprinting on dirt, though the race is at 6 1/2 furlongs as opposed to six.

On paper, it looks like Dreaming of Neno, who will break from post 2 under Joe Rocco Jr., is the primary speed.

“He’s got natural speed,” Ramirez said.

Three of the eight runners are in for the claiming tag of $62,500, including Houston Bull, a winner of two straight, and Helper Rye, a winner of four straight in Argentina.

Houston Bull was claimed in two of his last three starts. Peter Walder claimed the horse from Jamie Ness on Dec. 19 for $17,500. The horse won a $20,000 claimer Jan. 16 and was claimed by Christos Gatis. Walder liked the horse so much that he decided to have owner Richard Lister buy the horse privately rather than get involved in a possible shake the next time the horse ran for a tag.

Walder ran Houston Bull in a $40,000 claimer here Feb. 24, and he won by a head.

Gatis “had him in for $25,000, and I had 10 people call me about him,” Walder said. “I told the owner, ‘Let’s buy him back.’ ”

Walder said that this late in the meet, this type of race did not come up as strong as usual.

“I think it’s a winnable race,” Walder said. “This isn’t a February two-other-than; this is a March two-other-than.”

The wild card in the field is Helper Rye, who was dominant in winning four races in Argentina last summer. He is making his first start for trainer Bill Mott, who also owns a partial stake in the horse with Carolyn Wilson. Helper Rye breaks from the rail under Edgar Prado.

Fair Whit is certainly in with a chance. He was overmatched in the Grade 3 Gulfstream Sprint Championship and caught a much tougher field in this condition two starts back, where he was beaten five lengths by Spring Hill Farm.

High Level Jeff, Harbor Breeze, Silver Menace, and Coosada complete the field.