03/21/2013 1:52PM

Gulfstream Park: Newsdad faces crowded field in bid for Pan American repeat

Bob Coglianese
Newsdad had to beat only three horses to win the Pan American in 2012, but faces nine opponents Saturday.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Newsdad had to defeat only three rivals when he captured the 2012 edition of the $150,000 Pan American Handicap. The reigning champion will find the starting gate a lot more crowded when he returns to Gulfstream Park on Saturday to defend his title in the Grade 2 marathon, to be decided at 1 1/2 miles on the turf.

Newsdad failed to win or even hit the board in four subsequent starts following his two-length decision over Hailstone in last year’s Pan Am. But he was able to right the ship last fall in his 2012 finale, rallying to a two-length victory on Polytrack in Keeneland’s Grade 2 Fayette.

Owned and bred by James Karp, Newsdad has not missed a beat in the morning while preparing for his return exclusively over the main track at Gulfstream rather than at trainer Bill Mott’s primary winter headquarters at Payson Park. Newsdad was entered and scratched Feb. 16 from the Grade 2 Mac Diarmida, a race won by his stablemate Amira’s Prince.

Jose Lezcano, who has been sidelined due to injuries sustained in a spill over the turf course two weeks ago, will return to the saddle Saturday to ride Newsdad, who must break from the extreme outside in post 10.

The second-, third-, and fourth-place finishers from the Mac Diarmida – Teaks North, Ioya Bigtime, and Twilight Eclipse – will all return in the Pan Am.

Teaks North led into the stretch before proving no match for Amira’s Prince while easily second best in the Mac Diarmida. Teaks North, a multiple Grade 1 winner, gave Michelle Nevin her first win as a licensed trainer when he dominated the Sunshine Millions Turf by 2 1/2 lengths in his 2013 debut.

Ioya Bigtime chased Teaks North before fading to finish third in the Mac Diarmida, 6 1/2 lengths behind the winner. Ioya Bigtime was a multiple Grade 3 winner last season for trainer Chris Block.

“We had him in a good rhythm with a race every four to five weeks last year,” Block said. “He had a lot more time between the McKnight and the Mac Diarmida, and I didn’t have him really tight for that race.”

Twilight Eclipse will carry high weight of 123 pounds under the allowance conditions of the Pan Am by virtue of his 1 3/4-length victory over Mucho Mas Macho in Calder’s Grade 2 W.L. McKnight to close out his 3-year-old campaign. Mucho Mas Macho returned to flatter that performance by upsetting the Grade 2 Fort Lauderdale on Jan. 12. Twilight Eclipse could not duplicate his McKnight performance in the Mac Diarmida when finishing a tiring fourth more than seven lengths behind the winner.

“It wasn’t a bad race, and he’s improved since then,” said Tom Albertrani, who trains Twilight Eclipse for West Point Thoroughbreds. “They called the ground good that day, but I think it was softer than that, which he doesn’t care for.”

Mucho Mas Macho got little respect, despite his second-place finish in the McKnight, when turning back to 1 1/16 miles to register a neck victory over Tiz Sardonic Joe at odds of 41-1 for trainer Henry Collazo in the Fort Lauderdale.

“We passed the Mac Diarmida because he threw an awful big number in the Fort Lauderdale, and in retrospect, I think it was the best thing I could do because the added time has done him nothing but good,” Collazo said. “He’s pretty versatile, but I think he’ll love the added ground like he showed in the McKnight.”