02/20/2014 3:52PM

Gulfstream Park: Maker comebackers loom large

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Barbara D. Livingston
Commissioner runs in a strong 3-year-old allowance on Saturday.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - General a Rod’s appearance in the Fountain of Youth will be the understandable focus of trainer Mike Maker on Saturday, but well before that race he has a chance to win consecutive allowance races with horses returning from layoffs.

Honor the Kitten, idle since June, returns in race 3, a first-level optional claimer at 1 1/16 miles on turf. And then in race 4, a one-turn mile, graded stakes-placed Morgan’s Guerrilla makes his first start since October 2012 in a first-level allowance that is the comeback race for Normandy Invasion.

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Honor the Kitten won his debut on Polytrack at Keeneland last April, then finished fourth in an allowance race at Belmont Park on turf before going to the sidelines.

“He had a knee chip coming out of that race at Belmont,” Maker said at his Gulfstream Park barn on Thursday morning. “We’ve always had high hopes for him. He’s grown up into a really nice-looking animal. He’s trained very well.”

Javier Castellano, who rode Honor the Kitten in his only two starts, is back aboard.

Morgan’s Guerrilla’s lengthy layoff was because of a tendon injury, Maker said. Morgan’s Guerrilla showed considerable promise at age 3 in 2012. He was second in the Grade 3 Illinois Derby in only his third lifetime start, and was third in the Grade 2 Dwyer. Morgan’s Guerilla will be making his first start since finishing fourth behind Neck ’n Neck and Bourbon Courage in the Grade 2 Indiana Derby.

“We took our time getting him back,” Maker said. “The injury didn’t heal as quickly as we thought it would, so we just gave him time. He sure is training well.”

Top 3-year-olds in allowance

The Fountain of Youth is a prep for next month’s Florida Derby. So too is race 6 on Saturday, a first-level allowance that lured a number of well-regarded, lightly raced 3-year-olds, including Constitution and Matterhorn, each a winner of his lone start and trained by Todd Pletcher.
Constitution won going seven furlongs here on Jan. 11. Matterhorn has not raced since a one-mile win at Aqueduct on Nov. 16. Both will be going two turns for the first time in this 1 1/16-mile race.

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The contention runs quite deep, though. Mexikoma is making his first start since a late-running sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Wicked Strong, a deceptively good third in the Remsen, is seeking to rebound off a dull ninth-place finish in the Holy Bull. Tonalist was an eye-catching winner against maidens on Jan. 18 in his second lifetime start.

* The improving 3-year-old Can’t Stop the Kid made a fast track look even faster on Thursday morning, working five furlongs from the half-mile pole in 58.18. Trained by Donna Green for owner Dan Hurtak, Can’t Stop the Kid is coming off an entry level allowance win and could make his next start in the Grade 3 Swale on March 1. 
– additional reporting by Mike Welsch