01/09/2012 1:05PM

Gulfstream Park: Hyper targets repeat in starter allowance


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Hyper did not win or even hit the board when launching his career under a $25,000 claiming tag in November 2010, but that race opened up a wealth of opportunities for the stretch-running turf specialist who will be favored to post his second straight victory against $25,000 starter allowance competition in Wednesday’s $39,000 feature over 1 1/16 miles on turf at Gulfstream Park.

Hyper has yet to finish worse than second in four tries against starter company. A homebred son of Victory Gallop owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, Hyper defeated $50,000 starter opposition last summer at Saratoga. He also just missed beating first-level allowance types on Nov. 13 at Aqueduct while equipped with blinkers for the first time by trainer Chad Brown.

Hyper overcame an eventful trip, rallying from near the rear of the pack, to post a hard-fought, half-length decision when dropping down to face $25,000 starter allowance rivals to close out his 2011 campaign. The victory, which also came with blinkers, was Hyper’s second in as many outings over the local turf course.

“I don’t think the addition of blinkers has made a huge difference, but it does seem to help him maintain a little more focus throughout the entire race rather than just in spots,” Brown said. “He turned in a big effort to win his last start, overcoming a bad trip and running down horses inside the sixteenth pole like he did, which is difficult over this course. These kinds of races on the grass are all about trip and position, and hopefully, he’ll be able to get decent position this time.”

Nikki’s Sandcastle, who won a $25,000 conditioned claiming dash on the turf last July at Arlington Park to become eligible for starter races, is coming out of a series of good efforts with third-level optional claiming competition. Nikki’s Sandcastle was forced to race wide throughout when finishing third behind the stakes-caliber Date Link and stakes-tested Pinckney Hill on Dec. 4 and suffered a similar fate while finishing a late-running fourth against the same caliber four weeks later.

Sunshine Rambler also has started twice at the meet and will be wheeling back on short rest after checking home a troubled fourth under a $50,000 claiming tag Jan. 2.

Livingston Street proved no match for Hyper when the pair first met four weeks earlier. The hard-knocking veteran had competed in stakes races in four of his previous five starts, including a sixth in the Grade 2 W.L. McKnight Handicap at Calder in his 2011 finale.