12/28/2011 4:54PM

Gulfstream Park: Say a Novena returns, cuts back in Old Hat

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Barbara D. Livingston
Say a Novena will start her 3-year-old campaign in the Grade 3 Old Hat at Gulfstream Park.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. knew he was up against it with Say a Novena the instant they pulled pill No. 13 out of the box when her name was called at the post position draw for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. The outside post ultimately took its toll on the two-time stakes winner who finished a well-beaten 10th behind My Miss Aurelia after forcing the pace into the stretch of the Juvenile Fillies.

Plesa fully expects Say a Novena, a daughter of Songandaprayer, to rebound from that performance when she kicks off her 3-year-old campaign here Sunday in the Grade 3 Old Hat.

“I knew we were dead the minute we drew that post,” Plesa said. “If it had been a regular race and not the Breeders’ Cup, we probably would have scratched because of the draw, but it’s the Breeders’ Cup, you’ve already spent so much money to put her in the race, you just have to go ahead and run.”

Say a Novena was stretching out around two turns for the first time in the Breeders’ Cup.

“She ran as good as she could,” Plesa said. “The distance might have been a little too far, but I thought all things considered she ran a hell of a race.”

The distance of the Old Hat, six furlongs, should be right in Say a Novena’s wheel house. She won the Colleen at Monmouth going 5 1/2 furlongs and the seven-furlong Brandywine at Parx Racing. She also finished second in Belmont’s six-furlong, Grade 2 Matron prior to the Breeders’ Cup.

“We’re looking at the two graded stakes here at six and seven furlongs for 3-year-old fillies,” Plesa said, referring to the Old Hat and Grade 2 Forward Gal on Jan. 29. “Then we’ll give her a little break and get her ready for the summer.”

Plesa said he also is looking forward to the return of Successful Mission who’ll launch his 2012 campaign in the Grade 3 Hal’s Hope on Jan. 14. Successful Mission won three of his four starts since joining Plesa’s barn early this year, but has not raced since winning Monmouth Park’s Elkwood Stakes by seven lengths and earning a 108 Beyer Speed Figure on May 21.

“He came up with a small problem after the Elkwood,” Plesa said. “I sent him to the farm, we took care of it, and he’s been training great for his return.”

Plesa has gotten off to a good start during the opening month of the meet, winning four races to place him in a dead heat for third in the standings behind only Todd Pletcher and Chad Brown entering this week’s action.

Argentine Tango impresses despite DQ

Trainer Stanley Gold may have lost the battle, but is hoping he’ll ultimately be able to win a major war or two later this winter with Argentine Tango who was disqualified from an apparent victory following a somewhat controversial decision in Monday’s feature event. Equipped with blinkers for the first time, Argentine Tango was much the best, circling the field and rallying from last to what appeared an impressive victory, although he did lug in briefly forcing fourth-place finisher Saturday Launch to take up near midstretch of the one-mile turf race.

“I’m not going to criticize the decision,” Gold said. “The bottom line is that he ran big and he won, and I was glad he showed he was capable of running a race like that.”

Argentine Tango spent most of his juvenile campaign futiley chasing his more highly regarded stablemate Fort Loudon, finishing second behind that rival in Calder’s Dr. Fager and Affirmed Stakes and fourth in the In Reality. He flashed signs of improvement when switched to the turf for the Appleton Juvenile before finally putting it all together Monday.

“The blinkers did exactly what I was hoping they’d do, give us more down the stretch,” Gold said. “He showed he was a different horse the first time I worked him in them.”

Gold said Argentine Tango will likely make his 3-year-old debut in the $100,000 Kitten’s Joy on Jan. 21.

Gold also reported that he’s in no rush to bring Fort Loudon back to the races just yet. Fort Loudon, who swept all three legs of Calder’s Florida Stallion Stakes, closed out his 2-year-old campaign finishing seventh after a wide trip in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He had his third work since that race Wednesday morning at Calder, going an easy three-eighths in 37.60 seconds.

“We just gave him a little time off to fill out after he returned from Kentucky,” Gold said. “He didn’t have the best of it in the Breeders’ Cup breaking from post 12, but still only got beat nine lengths by the best 2-year-olds in the world. I’m not making any excuses, he didn’t run his best race that day, but there is reason for optimism. He won’t be tight enough for the Holy Bull. When he’s ready, he’ll tell us and then we’ll start looking for a race.”

My Adonis targeting Holy Bull

One 3-year-old definitely pointing to the Holy Bull is My Adonis who drilled a bullet five furlongs in 59.45 on Tuesday at Palm Meadows. My Adonis has not started since finishing a distant ninth after contesting a fast pace in the $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot.

“He got into a speed duel in his last start and just cooked himself,” trainer Kelly Breen said. “I think he’s a quality horse, I’m just throwing out his last race. I really prefer him to go two turns, but if all goes well he’ll use the Holy Bull as a prep for the Fountain of Youth.”

◗ Soaring Empire continued his preparations for his 2012 debut, expected to come in the Hal’s Hope, when working a slow five furlongs in 1:03.46 in company with stablemate Le Bon Ton Rule here Wednesday.

◗ A six-horse field was drawn for Saturday’s first race, a 220-yard Quarter Horse event for maiden $5,000 claimers. Post time for the Quarter Horse race has been set at 11:30 a.m. Post time for the first of the 11 Thoroughbred races on the card remains 12:35 p.m.

Old Hat S. (G3), Post Time: 4:17 ET Sunday

Purse: $100,000; 6 furlongs

Post

Horse

Trainer

Jockey

ML Odds

1

Soft Whisper

D. Vance

J. Leparoux

10-1

1

Say A Novena

E. Plesa, Jr.

E. Trujillo

5-1

1

Sabrina's Dance

N. Canani

P. Lopez

8-1

1

Sacristy

W. Catalano

K. Desormeaux

5-2

1

Bet To Win

J. DiVito

J. Castellano

3-1

1

Awesome Belle

S. Gold

L. Saez

6-1

1

Yara

J. Garoffalo

J. Velazquez

8-1

1

Quick Flip

T. Pompay

R. Maragh

8-1