02/20/2014 2:09PM

Gulfstream Park: Reload's talent coming out on grass

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Reload has proven to be a frustrating project for trainer Shug McGaughey. When Reload arrived in Florida last winter, McGaughey thought about racing him on the turf, but in his training at Payson Park, “he didn’t work well,” McGaughey recalled.

McGaughey wanted to try again this winter and had his assistant at Payson, Robbie Medina, work Reload on the turf. This time, Reload turned in a strong series of drills, and when he made his grass debut last month at Gulfstream Park, he ran to those works, walloping an upper-level allowance field by three lengths while leading from start to finish.

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The next step in the reloading of Reload takes place at Gulfstream Park on Saturday, when he attempts to win his first stakes race in the Grade 3, $150,000 Canadian Turf for grass milers. The one-mile race drew 12 runners, including the comebacking Rydilluc, a two-time winner on this course last year.

Reload, now 5, has won just four times in 16 starts. He’s been wildly inconsistent. In his last seven starts, he owns three wins, all by daylight, and four races in which he finished out of the money.

“He’s a talented horse that doesn’t always show up,” McGaughey said. “Hopefully, grass has done the trick.”

Rydilluc won his first three grass races, including the Grade 3 Palm Beach here last year, but tailed off badly in mid-summer and was given a lengthy vacation by trainer Gary Contessa. Edgar Prado, his rider in all eight of his prior starts – including four wins – is back aboard.

Abtaal is an intriguing prospect for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. After a layoff of more than 16 months, he returned Jan. 25 and rallied to beat a second-level allowance field when making his U.S. debut. McLaughlin said the layoff was because of bruising of the cannon bones, and he was worried he’d come up short.

“He had been off a long time, so I was a little concerned about that, and most of these European horses don’t break well,” McLaughlin said Thursday morning. “He’s a nice horse. He was a group stakes horse overseas. He should run well, provided he settles.”

The field looks evenly matched, with several other runners afforded a strong chance of winning.

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Mr. Online has won three straight races and comes into this in the best form of his career. He benefits by drawing the rail. Unbridled Ocean overcame a wide draw to beat an upper-level allowance field last time out in only his second start since returning from a 10-month layoff.

Guys Reward and Salto were one-two in the Tampa Bay across the state on Feb. 1. Hampstead Heath has a history of running well fresh. Bad Debt had a rough trip when third in the Sunshine Millions Turf last time out. Fredericksburg just missed in the John B. Connally at Sam Houston in his last start.