03/07/2011 3:09PM

Gulfstream Park: Golden Moka starts campaign after illness

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Golden Moka was a sprint sensation in Panama at 2 but proved he could carry his speed against quality competition once coming to the United States a year ago.

Now 4, Golden Moka will attempt to shake off the effects of a serious illness that has kept him out of action for nearly four months when returning to allowance competition in Wednesday’s $62,000 feature at Gulfstream Park.

Golden Moka won all three starts – all sprints – including a Group 3 stakes as a juvenile in Panama. Golden Moka was subsequently purchased privately by a group that includes former rider Rene Douglas who was paralyzed in a spill at Arlington Park during summer 2009. Joining Douglas in the partnership is his physician, Dr. Hilton Gordon, and former Chicago Blackhawks star Denis Savard.

Golden Moka won Fort Erie’s Prince of Wales Stakes by nearly three lengths in his 3-year-old and North American debut before being a bit overmatched and finishing fifth in both the Grade 2 Super Derby and Grade 3 Discovery Handicap during the fall. Trainer Bryan Lynch had Golden Moka pointed to Calder’s Grade 3 Fred Hooper in December, only to have the son of Golden Missile fall seriously ill several weeks before the race.

“At first, we thought he was having a colic attack, but it turned out to be a perforated ulcer that had flared up,” Lynch said. “He was terribly sick but fortunately did not require surgery, although it cost us the entire month of December.”

Golden Moka has had a half-dozen works at Palm Meadows, five at five furlongs and the last at six panels, since being able to return to serious training. Lynch is eager to get his season off to a good start Wednesday.

“He’s been breezing well, and it’s time to get him back on track,” Lynch said. “If he shows in this race he’s heading in the right direction, then we’ll point toward the Alysheba.”

The Grade 3 Alysheba will be run at Churchill Downs on May 6.

Golden Moka has caught a small but talented field for his return, which comes at a mile. The group is led by Hunters Bay, a lightly raced but steadily improving son of Ghostzapper who like Golden Moka was bred by Adena Springs.

Hunters Bay went to the sidelines after posting a pair of impressive victories early last season for trainer Todd Pletcher. He resurfaced here last month with trainer Reade Baker, launching his comeback by finishing a strong second while earning a 103 Beyer Speed Figure under similar optional claiming conditions as Wednesday’s main event.

Caixa Eletronica is the only member of the field that will compete under a $62,500 price tag, returning to the level that produced an impressive 2 1/2-length victory here Jan. 23. In his last start, Caixa Eletronica finished a respectable third behind Tackleberry and Soaring Empire in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship.

Dueling Alex, who finished third and was more than three lengths behind Hunters Bay in their previous meeting; the promising Day of Destiny, and Jaguar Paw complete the field.