01/23/2013 1:34PM

Gulfstream Park: Escrow Kid ready turf or dirt in Friday sprint

Hoofprints Inc.
Escrow Kid will make his first start for trainer Rudy Rodriguez on Friday at Gulfstream Park.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. –After looking for weeks for an ideal spot for Escrow Kid and not really finding anything to his exact liking, trainer Rudy Rodriguez entered him in Friday’s featured seventh race at Gulfstream Park, an optional claimer in which he will be taking on some accomplished turf sprinters, like Awakino Cat.

That is, of course, unless it rains.

“I’m hoping for rain,” Rodriguez said. “That would be nice.”

Regardless of whether that rain dance Rodriguez performs Thursday night works and moves the $57,500 race to the main track, Escrow Kid is set to run in the five-furlong race Friday. He has had far more success on dirt than turf, but there is the distinct possibility he is a much-improved horse these days.

After being claimed for $50,000 last July, Escrow Kid won his next start, the New Castle Stakes at Delaware, for new trainer Tony Dutrow. Owner Michael Dubb then moved Escrow Kid to Rodriguez, for whom he makes his first start Friday while in for a $62,500 tag.

Since getting him ready to run at Gulfstream, “I haven’t been able to find a race for him,” Rodriguez said.

Hence, Rodriguez said, the reason for entering him in a grass race instead of continuing to await a high-priced claiming sprint.

“He’ll be okay if he runs on the grass,” Rodriguez said. “He’s a solid horse. He’s a warrior.”

So is Awakino Cat, a battle-tested, 8-year-old gelding making his 38th start Friday. Though currently a bit below the best form of the prime of his career, Awakino Cat is always a threat in these turf sprints and comes off a third-place finish over this course Jan. 3.

The horse who won that Jan. 3 race, Determinato, is coming right back at the same level. He had his allowance condition last time, but now that it’s gone trainer Bill White is bringing him back through the optional-claiming door.

Fast Time returned from a lengthy layoff to finish fifth behind Determinato on Jan. 3, but he was compromised by a rough start. He boasts a win over this course and trip last March.

Master Dunker has a chance to move forward in his second start since a layoff of nearly one year. He shortens up to a sprint after going a mile Dec. 23, and though most of his races have been around two turns, he did win his lone turf sprint, in November 2010 at Calder, so this turnback might be ideal.

Harbor Breeze also is trying a turf sprint for the first time. He exits a one-mile race on the main track on Dec. 29 from which two of the first three finishers – Swagger Jack and Spring Hill Farm – already have returned to win.