01/08/2013 1:48PM

Gulfstream Park: Father and son square off in Thursday turf sprint

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Barbara D. Livingston
Strike the Tiger is entered for a $25,000 claiming tag Thursday at Gulfstream Park.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – It will be father versus son when trainer Dennis Ward’s Tiz in Court takes on his son Wesley Ward’s Strike the Tiger in Thursday’s $54,500 allowance feature at Gulfstream Park. The Ward family feud will be decided at five furlongs on the turf under first-level optional claiming conditions.

Tiz in Court is coming off a second-place finish behind Big Notion under similar conditions here Dec. 13. The elder Ward sent out Tiz in Court, a 6-year-old son of Cee’s Tizzy, to finish first and second against softer entry- and second-level optional claiming competition during the latter stages of the 2012 Calder session.

“My horse is in good form right now,” Dennis Ward said. “He ran well last time, the winner just ran by us pretty quick. This is about as far as my horse wants to go. We don’t try to do too much more with him.”

Ward said running a horse against his son is really not that big a deal.

“We’ve done it a few times before, and I don’t think he’s beaten me yet,” the elder Ward said. “I gave him the first horse he ever ran when he started his training career. The horse won, and then I won a race the same day with one of my own. The two horses faced each other a few weeks later, mine won, he gave me the other one back and went to California a couple of days later.”

Strike the Tiger and Wesley Ward made racing history when they became the first American horse and trainer to win a race at Royal Ascot. The pair turned the trick in June 2009 when they combined to capture the Windsor Castle Stakes. Ward’s father was among those in attendance at Royal Ascot that day.

“Being with my son and watching him win those races at Ascot that summer was the best time of my life,” Dennis Ward said.

Strike the Tiger has become strictly a lower- to mid-level claiming horse over the past two seasons, with his only two victories during that period coming under $25,000 price tags. His latest tally came Oct. 27, when the son of Tiger Ridge rallied to a head decision going 5 1/2 furlongs over Keeneland’s Polytrack. Strike the Tiger hung late and finished fourth when trying to stretch out to 7 1/2 furlongs against straight $25,000 claimers here last month.

Stretch-runners Tiz in Court and Strike the Tiger should both benefit from all the speed in this lineup. The presence of Ari’s Pride, D’Pepjo, Gary D, Don’t Put It Back, and Crockefeller should assure an honest pace.

Ari’s Pride looks like the most dangerous of the front-runners in the field, having won the last two times he ran five furlongs on grass, both in wire-to-wire fashion against lesser opposition at Calder.

D’Pepjo, who has been rarely headed during the early stages of his races, showed a new dimension under jockey Javier Castellano in his 3-year-old finale last year when he rallied to a 3 1/2-length maiden special weight victory over the local course. He must overcome a tough post, however, in his first start against winners, having drawn the outside in the 11-horse field.