01/28/2013 1:59PM

Gulfstream Park: Plesa trying Dixie High on the grass


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – After thrusting himself into the Kentucky Derby picture over the weekend winning the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes with Itsmyluckyday, trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. returns with another of his promising 3-year-olds – Dixie High, who will try turf for the first time in Wednesday’s $54,5000 main event, carded at five furlongs on the grass.

Dixie High was among Plesa’s top 2-year-olds early last season after winning his career debut by nearly four lengths and finishing second behind the odds-on Two T’s At Two B in Calder’s six-furlong Dr. Fager Stakes. But after the colt tired to finish sixth in both the seven-furlong Affirmed and 1 1/16-mile In Reality divisions of the Florida Stallion Series, Plesa gave Dixie High a 30-day break on the farm before returning him to training for his 3-year-old campaign.

“I gave him a break. He’s ready to run, although I would have preferred to have brought him back going six furlongs on the main track,” said Plesa. “But there’s no reason to believe he won’t like the turf either. Barring something unforeseen, it looks like he’s going to be strictly a sprinter the rest of his career.”

Dixie High will face a field that includes the second-, third-, and fourth-place finishers – Bernie the Jet, Holy Command and Skylander – out of a similarly conditioned allowance dash on the grass here last month.

Bernie the Jet rallied wide and from near the rear of the field to finish second, no match for pacesetting winner Party Lad, when he turned back to five furlongs for the first time in his career. Bernie the Jet was stakes-placed on grass at 2, finishing second in the Incredible Optimist going a mile at Belmont Park in October.

Holy Command won his maiden going five furlongs in his grass debut last fall at Calder and was a game third after chasing Party Lad into the stretch here four weeks later. Trainer David Fawkes tried stretching Holy Command out around two turns off that effort, but a rough trip resulted in a sixth-place finish and a subsequent return to sprinting on Wednesday.

Skylander was sent off the tepid 2-1 favorite despite having been idle more than eight months when he closed out his abbreviated 2-year-old campaign on Dec. 20. Skylander, a son of Bring the Heat, had his best chances compromised that day after breaking a bit slowly and taking up briefly down the backstretch. He recovered to race within striking distance before flattening out and failing to kick on through the final furlong of what appeared to be a much-needed outing.

The stretch-running Happy Fella was a very easy 7 1/2-length maiden special weight winner going five furlongs on the grass here five weeks ago, but is taking a big step up in class for his 3-year-old debut.

Do You Smell Smoke, coming off a main-track maiden win vs. Florida-breds, and Rock Star Mia should assure an honest pace in a field that also includes Dixie Deputy, Cat Five Hurricane, and City of Weston.