02/13/2013 12:31PM

Gulfstream Park: Pants On Fire faces stakes-caliber competition in allowance

Barbara D. Livingston
Pants On Fire drops out of the Grade 3 Hal's Hope for a one-mile allowance Friday at Gulfstream Park.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Trainer Kelly Breen didn’t want to run Pants On Fire in a stakes to begin his 2013 campaign. But with no other options at the time, Pants On Fire ended up in the Grade 3 Hal’s Hope, where he finished a game third after stumbling at the break.

Breen finally found the allowance race he was looking for on Friday at Gulfstream Park, a conditioned event also open to $100,000 claimers going a mile. The $65,000 race lured a graded-stakes-quality field that also includes Alma d’Oro, Duke of Mischief, Eldaafer, and Winslow Homer.

Pants On Fire raced wide after recovering from his unlucky beginning in the one-mile Hal’s Hope, forged to a short advantage entering the stretch, and held the lead to inside the sixteenth pole before succumbing grudgingly from the effort nearing the wire, finishing a half-length behind race winner Csaba.

“He’d only run once since May prior to the Hal’s Hope and that race really didn’t count at Delta since he slipped in the starting gate before they sprung them and never really ran at all,” said Breen. “As a result, I didn’t want to bring him back in a stakes. But there wasn’t an open allowance race in the book, so I had to put him in the Hal’s Hope and I thought he ran extremely well.”

Breen said Pants On Fire couldn’t be doing better since coming out of the Hal’s Hope.

“He’s training well and I’ve never seen him look as good as he does now,” said Breen. “I could have run him last weekend in the Donn, but I skipped it to try to find an easier spot and get his head on correctly – get a win if we can – although this isn’t an easy spot and we drew the rail, which isn’t great either.”

Alma d’Oro will make his first start since finishing fourth under allowance conditions at Keeneland on Oct. 6. He will be seeking his first victory since squeezing out a nose decision in the R.R.M. Carpenter Jr. Memorial at Delaware Park during the summer of 2011. In the interim, Alma d’Oro was graded stakes-placed three times, including a second behind Fort Larned in the Grade 3 Skip Away here last winter.

Duke of Mischief is looking to regain the form that has helped him earn more than $1.9 million during his career. Duke of Mischief was eased through the stretch of the Harlan’s Holiday here on Dec. 16, then finished far back again when trying a yielding grass course in the Sunshine Millions Turf. His last victory came in the $1 million Charles Town Classic in April 2011.

Eldaafer has not started since finishing a distant seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Marathon, a race he won two years earlier. Eldaafer’s best effort last year was a third after contesting the early pace in the Grade 2 Hawthorne Gold Cup.

Winslow Homer will launch the second comeback of his career while making his first start since being transferred to the barn of trainer Chad Brown. The 6-year-old Winslow Homer, who has not started since October 2011, won the Grade 3 Holy Bull here at 3.