12/31/2012 3:35PM

Gulfstream Park notes: Hard Not to Like returning in Marshua’s River

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Michael Burns
Hard Not to Like, who won the Cup and Saucer at Woodbine at 2 (above), makes her 4-year-old debut on Saturday in the Grade 3 Marshua's River.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Michael Matz may not have a Union Rags in his barn this winter, but he still has some talented runners to showcase during the Gulfstream meet, including Hard Not To Like, runner-up in the Grade 1 Ashland at 3 who’ll make her 4-year-old debut in Saturday’s Grade 3 Marshua’s River on the turf.

Owned by the Hillsbrook Farm of Garland Williamson, Hard Not To Like has been idle since finishing sixth following an unlucky start in the Kentucky Oaks. She began her career with trainer Gail Cox and was turned over to Matz after returning from surgery this fall.

“I think they took a chip out of her knee last summer,” said Matz. “She got a break and I was pleased when Mr. Williamson called me up, said he wanted her to come to Florida for the winter, and asked if I’d take her.”

Hard Not To Like has posted all three of her wins on grass, including Woodbine’s Cup and Saucer at 2. She completed preparations for her return by working an easy half-mile in 54.80 around the dogs at Palm Meadows on Monday.

“I thought she worked real well this morning,” said Matz. “The dogs were really far out and she did it in hand.”

Matz is trying to deal with life without Union Rags down here this season after having to cope with an avalanche of media pressure training the Kentucky Derby favorite at Palm Meadows last winter.

“It’s pretty quiet up here so far this year,” Matz said with a laugh. “I guess it’s all about what have you done for me lately. But I do have a couple of newly turned 3-year-olds here with me now I really like, including one I plan to enter for Saturday, so you never know.”

Shanghai Bobby works

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner and almost certain 2-year-old champion Shanghai Bobby breezed five furlongs in 1:01.79 Sunday morning at Palm Meadows. Trainer Todd Pletcher said the colt remains on target for the Grade 3 Holy Bull on Jan. 26.

◗ Sunday’s work tab at Gulfstream Park was topped by Grade 1 winners Sean Avery (four furlongs in 48.05) and Emma’s Encore (five furlongs in 1:02.47). Monday’s was led by Newsdad, who registered the first of his two Grade 2 victories here last winter in the Pan American. A turf specialist, Newsdad turned in his second work since returning to south Florida, breezing an easy half-mile in 49.33 over the main track.