12/22/2012 4:19PM

Gulfstream Park: Fast Falcon lands in far softer spot

Barbara D. Livingston
Fast Falcon has made his last three starts against Grade 1 company.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – After taking on Grade 1 competition in each of his last three starts, Fast Falcon will receive some major class relief when closing out his 3-year-old campaign by dropping into optional claiming company in Thursday’s $54,500, 1 1/16-mile feature at Gulfstream Park.

Fast Falcon ran the race of his life this summer at Saratoga when finishing third, beaten a neck by Golden Ticket and Alpha, in the Travers. He took on older horses in each of his next two starts, finishing fifth in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and eighth after a wide trip at Churchill Downs in the Clark Handicap.

Fast Falcon, a son of Awesome Again trained by Nick Zito, was also Grade  2-placed earlier this year, finishing second, beaten a neck by Teeth of the Dog, in the Dwyer.

“Right now we want to try to win as many races as we can for all our owners and dropping Fast Falcon back with allowance company is the right thing to do,” said Zito. “But sometimes when you race at Gulfstream, you think you look smart making that kind of move and end up running in a tougher race. Look what happened two weeks ago when we ran Tiz Yankee in an allowance race. He could have beaten anybody that day but ran into Todd Pletcher’s horse [Graydar)], who nearly broke Commentator’s track record.”

Zito said to toss out Fast Falcon’s last start in the Clark.

“When trainers say a horse didn’t handle the track at Churchill Downs, believe me it’s true,” said Zito. “Some horses just spin their wheels over that surface. But he’s bounced back nicely out of the race and is training well. Right now we’re looking to take things one step at a time with him coming into his 4-year-old season and see how he progresses.”

Fast Falcon’s eight rivals include Cigar Street, who has not started since finishing fourth in the Grade  2 Louisiana Derby. Cigar Street was subsequently transferred to Bill Mott’s barn at Payson Park, where he has had four recorded works in preparation for his 3-year-old finale.

The lineup also features a pair of old veterans, Unbridled Heat and Nathan Ridge, both of whom will turn 8 next Tuesday.

Unbridled Heat will be making the 80th start of a career during which he has registered 11 victories and banked in excess of $332,000 for a variety of owners. Unbridled Heat posted two of those wins this season, the most recent coming over a sloppy track against $16,000 starter allowance company at Calder on June 15.

Nathan Ridge has also been a work horse over the years and will go to post for the 76th time on Thursday. Nathan Ridge’s 16 lifetime wins includes a two-length triumph against $16,000 claimers at Parx on Oct. 15.