02/27/2014 3:43PM

Gulfstream Park: Mr Speaker back on best surface for Palm Beach


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – His main-track experiment and Kentucky Derby aspirations now behind him, Mr Speaker returns to the turf where he will vie for favoritism with Storming Inti in Saturday’s $150,000 Palm Beach Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

Mr Speaker has already proven his mettle on grass, following an impressive maiden win last fall at Belmont Park with a decisive victory in the Grade 3 Dania Beach to conclude his 2-year-old campaign. Trainer Shug McGaughey gave Mr. Speaker, a regally bred son of Pulpit, an opportunity to put himself on the Kentucky Derby trail when he launched his 3-year-old season on dirt in the Grade 2 Holy Bull. But that experiment ended after Mr Speaker finished a tiring seventh behind runaway winner Cairo Prince.

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Mr Speaker will race on Lasix for the first time Saturday with regular rider Jose Lezcano aboard.

“Back to the grass,” McGaughey said. “He’s doing really well and I’m looking forward to running him, and a mile and one-eighth should be perfect for him. I didn’t think his race in the Holy Bull was that bad. I think Jose wanted him up close so the dirt wasn’t hitting him. It might be something down the line I might try again.”

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Storming Inti brings a four-race winning streak into the 1 1/8-mile, Grade 3 Palm Beach. He is perfect in two local starts, turning in game efforts to capture both the Pulpit over a sloppy main track and the Kitten’s Joy on the turf. Storming Inti, a son of Stormy Atlantic trained by Chad Brown, re-asserted himself after relinquishing the lead in early stretch to best We Miss Artie by a head in the Kitten’s Joy.

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“He’s continued to progress and definitely earned his way into a graded race,” Brown said. “Winning breeds confidence and horses can get confident and get on a roll. Mentally, he is a very strong horse. In his last race, he was particularly determined to win that day.”

Brown also will send out the promising French-bred Pleuven. Pleuven finished a late-running third behind Mr. Speaker following a slow start and somewhat eventful trip making his U.S. debut in the one-mile Dania Beach and figures to improve with that race under his belt.

“I was thinking a mile might be a little short for him, but I figured it would be a good place to get him started,” Brown said. “I thought he ran well and a mile and one-eighth should be very good for him.”

Patent, My Storm Trooper, So Lonesome, Morning Calm, Smart Cover, Two Jacks Wild, Gala Award, Can’thelpbelieving, and Cabo Cat also are in the field. Ring Weekend was entered for main track only.

Cabo Cat continues to show improvement with experience, having finished second in the Dania Beach and third in the Kitten’s Joy.

Smart Cover makes his 3-year-old debut and first start since finishing second in the Grade 3 Iroquois late last summer at Churchill Downs.

Gala Award, Can’thelpbelieving, and My Storm Trooper all step up into stakes company off recent maiden wins.