01/28/2010 12:00AM

Gulfstream Park roundup



John Velazquez

He regained the top spot in the jockey standings after winning seven races last week. Johnny V. posted three straight riding doubles from Jan. 20-22, completing the first of that trio after picking up the mount on impressive maiden winner Lentenor in the nightcap on the 20th. Velazquez won only two of those seven races for his main man, Todd Pletcher. He also picked up a pair for Peter Walder and one each for trainers Michael Matz, Nick Zito, and Greg DiPrima.

Danny Miller/Frank Calabrese

After combining to send out Tahitian Warrior to a debut victory here opening day, which was impressive enough to have Godolphin come a calling to purchase the 3-year-old privately, what could this trainer-owner combo do for an encore? How about do it all over again last Saturday with the equally impressive debut winner Savemyspotimbeting? His runaway victory in near-track-record time had Calabrese s phone ringing off the hook once again before day s end.

Miller and Calabrese combined for three winners last week, and each is batting near .500 through the first three weeks of the session.

Anthony Dutrow

Looks like a shoo-in for rookie of the year honors at the meet, having won four races from 11 starters, including a pair of 3-year-old stakes in his first full time appearance at Gulfstream Park.

"This was the first time I felt like I had the type of horses necessary to come down here," said Dutrow. "I'm happy and extremely pleased at the results so far and, to be honest, not entirely surprised."



The winner of the Grade 1 Champagne may have run himself off the Kentucky Derby trail with his second consecutive disappointing performance. He faded to finish fifth in the , more than a half-dozen lengths behind the winner, Winslow Homer, although he did battle through some sizzling fractions on the lead while conceding weight to each of his eight rivals.


Another 3-year-old prospect whose stock dropped some after he faltered down the stretch after racing wide and prompting the quick pace in the Holy Bull.


Once again, plenty to report in this area. The main track suddenly turned lightning-fast following a dark day Jan. 19, with lower-level claimers running six furlongs in 1:09 and change on several occasions and the 5 1/2-furlong course record falling to 3-year-old Paizano in a mid-level starter allowance dash last Saturday.

Not surprisingly, speed became a treasured commodity for most of the week, with closers having little chance to make up sufficient ground to find the winner s circle, especially in main-track sprints. Despite this trend, however, the rail still appeared to be the deeper part of the strip again throughout the week.



Full brother to Barbaro, he continues to progress and impress. He posted a popular maiden win and did so with style, repulsing a couple of solid challengers approaching the stretch before pulling away with authority in his 3-year-old debut. It will be interesting to see if trainer Michael Matz opts to keep his rising star on the turf or give him a shot to prove himself over the main track with an eye toward a possible run at this year's Derby.

Winslow Homer

This up-and-coming 3-year-old won the Holy Bull even though trainer Anthony Dutrow declared publicly before the race that he was basically using the one-turn mile as a prep for next month's Fountain of Youth. Winslow Homer did benefit from a near-perfect trip under Ramon Dominguez, although the relatively inexperienced colt displayed some courage under fire, splitting the tiring leaders before striding out to victory over the more battle-tested Jackson s Bend in the final furlong.


Yet another good looking 3-year-old winner to watch as the meet progresses. A son of Distorted Humor trained by Todd Pletcher, he trounced 11 maiden special weight rivals going 1 1/8 miles despite ducking in and out while well clear at midstretch and finishing up in the deepest part of the track, right on the fence. He continues to improve with every start and earned a career-best 84 Beyer for the performance.


My colleague David Grening was visiting the home office in New York on Wednesday, Jan. 20, when the phone rang and he overheard one of the editors remark, "Did you say no contest?"

"Must be Mike calling from Gulfstream," Grening quipped.

Unfortunately, he was correct.

For the second time in less than three weeks, a turf race at this track was called a no-contest when the outrider was forced to signal the jockeys to pull their horses up approaching the stretch to avoid a potentially disastrous situation. The first incident occurred on opening day, when there was a delay in removing the gate from the course. This time it was because a fallen rider, Jose Lezcano, was still lying on the racetrack near the finish line as the field made its way around the final bend.

The ambulance crew's inability to come to Lezcano's aid immediately exacerbated a situation that ultimately led to more than $600,000 being refunded to the customers at the track and in simo-land.


A couple of Grade 1's on the docket next Saturday, the Donn and Gulfstream Park Turf handicaps. The outstanding card also includes the Grade 3 Suwannee River for fillies and mares on the turf.

Quality Road will be heavily favored to follow his victory here earlier in the meet with another win in the 1 1/8-mile Donn. Double Eclipse Award winner Gio Ponti tops an impressive nomination list for the Gulfstream Park Turf that also includes multiple Grade 1 winner Take the Points and Court Vision.

The week ends on Super Bowl Sunday with the Hallandale Beach for 3-year-olds on the turf.


Assessing workouts at Gulfstream has been difficult lately, with the main track lightning-fast in the morning since Jan. 20. Add a strong tailwind down the backstretch and headwind through the stretch for most of the same period, and you get too many watch-breaking early splits and final times that seem too good to be true. In many cases, they probably are.

With that in mind, I'll look at Saturday s Sunshine Millions card and some fast recent workouts that may be worth their weight in winning mutuel tickets.

Deborah's Pride (3rd race): Worked a bullet half in 46 and change; I actually had it as a five-eighths in 59.22 in company with a Kathy Mongeon-trained maiden who between the two was under far less pressure.

Karen's Joy (3rd race): Was second-best of a McPeek-trained team in her gate breeze Jan. 15, when she galloped out many lengths behind her workmate in 1:02.08.

Loveyou Everybody (4th race): Has trained extremely well for her local debut. She completed her final furlong in 11.69 seconds over a deep track the day after Christmas and returned a week later to zip a bullet half-mile in 46.36.

Golden Weekend (5th race): Completed his final eighth-mile of a Jan. 16 half-mile drill in 12.23, fighting a strong headwind and under little urging before galloping out five-eighths in a solid 1:00.70. His previous five-furlong work in 1:01.27 over a deep strip was equally strong.

This Ones for Phil (8th race): Cruised through an opening three furlongs in 34.22 seconds with the wind at his back under jockey Angel Cordero Jr., then fought brutal headwinds and was noticeably tiring at the end of what was still a bullet five-eighths in 59.39 here Monday. Loved the way he trained up to the Sunshine Millions a year ago, but I'm not sure what to make of this year's final prep.


Harlan's Princess

Trainer: Ken McPeek

Last race: Jan. 24, 10th

Finish: 5th by 2 1/2

Daughter of Harlan's Holiday flashed improvement switching to the turf following an eventful 3-year-old bow on the dirt. Saved ground, was shuffled a bit on the turn, held willingly through the stretch, and then galloped out well past the field around the turn indicating best may be forthcoming next time.

Fine Flyer

Trainer: Tom Proctor

Last race: Jan. 24, 7th

Finish: 3rd by 1 1/2

Gave an indication he s cycling back to his peak form from earlier in his career when he ran a near-lifetime best Beyer Speed Figure while just falling short of upsetting second-level optional claiming company in his local bow. Made a bit of a premature move to gain a short advantage between calls approaching the stretch before dropping into the deeper going near the rail and succumbing gradually through the final furlong in a huge effort.


Trainer: Jonathan Sheppard

Last race: Jan. 23, 7th

Finish: 3rd by 3/4

A little more aggressive handling during the early stages from Eclipse Award winner Julien Leparoux might have gotten this promising son of Posse into the winner s circle at first asking. Was allowed to drop too far off the leaders over a very fast, speed-favoring track and did well to make up several lengths through the stretch after swinging five wide off the turn against a winner who shaded 1:22 for seven furlongs.

Staying On

Trainer: Christophe Clement

Last race: Jan. 22, 8th

Finish: 3rd by 3 1/4

Suffered through a bit of an unlucky trip and may have come up a trifle short going nine furlongs against a good group of stakes-caliber turf rivals in his U.S. debut. Was shuffled back near the rear of the pack early on, took up again in traffic at the quarter pole, and moved within a head of the leaders nearing midstretch before failing to kick on at the end. Should handle same kind with this one under his belt.