01/10/2012 12:46PM

Gulfstream Park: Ninja Blade looks tough against winners

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Bob Coglianese
Ninja Blade wins his maiden on Dec. 10 at Gulfstream Park.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – It took Ninja Blade six starts to finally win his maiden in his 3-year-old finale. It’s not likely to take the talented, but somewhat unlucky, colt nearly as long to win again.

Ninja Blade will step up against winners for the first time in his career when meeting five rivals going six furlongs under entry-level allowance conditions in Thursday’s $53,500 main event at Gulfstream Park. A son of Johannesburg, Ninja Blade had the misfortune to lock horns with some of the top members of his class at 2 and 3, beginning in his career debut when beaten just a half-length by Dialed In. Five months later, Dialed In won the Grade 1 Florida Derby before ultimately being sent postward as the favorite in the 2011 Kentucky Derby.

Ninja Blade didn’t fare much better at 3, coming out second best behind Travelin Man, Arch Traveler, and Redeemed in three well graded maiden races at Gulfstream during the 2011 meeting. Travelin Man went on to win the Grade 2 Swale later in the meet, Arch Traveler became a graded stakes winner and also was graded stakes placed last spring, while Redeemed is now a Grade 3 winner and among the leading candidates for next month’s Grade 1 Donn Handicap.

Ninja Blade finally earned his diploma in his final start at 3, rallying from near the rear of the pack to a popular 1 1/4-length victory over Cajun Breeze when returning to Gulfstream on Dec. 10. That performance was flattered after Cajun Breeze graduated impressively in his next start.

“Every race he ran during his streak of second-place finishes was bang up,” said Eddie Kenneally who trains the homebred Ninja Blade for Windmill Manor Farm. “He was also a bit unlucky in each of those races when you take into account the company he ran into. Hopefully, finally getting his head in front will build his confidence a little and help him next time. He’s still going to have to run one of his better races to get it done on Thursday, but he’s doing great and I expect him to perform well again.”

Ninja Blade earned an 89 Beyer Speed Figure for the second time in his career when winning his maiden here last month, and none of his five rivals have matched that number to date. Raging Six has come closest, posting an 88 Beyer when finishing third under second-level optional claiming conditions at Monmouth Park on Nov. 11. But he failed to duplicate that effort when dropping back to more suitable competition here seven weeks later, trailing throughout in an entry-level allowance dash.

Trainer Todd Pletcher will send out the uncoupled pair of Katz My Song and Soaring Stocks in Thursday’s main event.

Katz My Song will turn back in distance after finishing third, beaten just a half-length, going a mile over a muddy track at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4. Katz My Song was beaten just a neck under similar first-level allowance conditions going 6 1/2 furlongs at Belmont four weeks earlier.

Soaring Stocks was an impressive maiden winner at second asking this summer at Monmouth, but did not return for five months, finishing a wide-running fifth going a mile here when launching his comeback on Dec. 8.

Recent maiden winner Trouble in Dodge and Et Al complete the field.