12/30/2009 12:00AM

Gulfstream roundup

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WHO'S HOT

Bill White

After three weeks without being able to run a horse because of the recent quarantine, Calder's perennial training champion came out firing once he got back into action Dec. 21. Despite missing nearly 30 percent of the 10-week Tropical meet, White is still in the hunt for another title after sending out five winners in as many programs since all restrictions were lifted from his 42-horse stable.

Antonio Gallardo

Gallardo, who is from Madrid, Spain, doubled his victory total for the year by winning three races last week, including two Dec. 23. Two of the three wins provided some Christmas money for longshot players: the 24-1 Nineinthenine on Dec. 23 and the 40-1 Awesomesundayblues in Monday's second race.

Sweet Repent

Three-year-old daughter of Repent made it four in a row Dec. 26 but again gave her connections and backers heart failure before getting up in the final stride to win the Grade 3 Stage Door Betty Handicap for trainer David Braddy. Three of the wins in her streak have come by a nose. The Stage Door Betty is the first graded stakes win of her career. Although she earned a 103 Beyer Speed Figure in the Stage Door Betty, the number was still a far cry from the 110 Beyer she posted capturing the Elmer Heubeck Distaff Handicap in her previous start.

WHO'S NOT

Luis Saez has had a great meet. In fact, he's had a great year and will get my vote to win the Eclipse Award as the nation's top apprentice in 2009. Unfortunately, his only ride anybody will remember from last week will be the one aboard Livingston Street in Saturday's Grade 2 W.L. McKnight Handicap.

Saez put his mount into a drive turning for home the first time around, either forgetting or just being unaware the race was carded at 1 1/2 miles and that the field still had to circle the seven-furlong turf course once more. The mental lapse led to Livingston Street's fading badly to finish 10th and didn't help 3-5 favorite Presious Passion - the unexpected early pressure caused him to falter and finish a tiring fifth in his first start since the Breeders' Cup Turf.

To Saez's credit, he bounced back to win a pair of races the next day and remained entrenched in third place in the Tropical standings behind multiple titlists Eibar Coa and Manoel Cruz.

TRACK TRENDS

The racetrack played some strange tricks just before and immediately after the two-day Christmas break, favoring speed horses, especially in sprint races, Dec. 23 before hampering them on the turf and dirt courses when racing resumed Dec. 26. Speed was also dominant over the turf and dirt Dec. 28.

On Dec. 23, the track bias helped lead to four upsets: Spirit's Wild Lite scored a mild upset over the 1-2 Bullet Trip in the opener; the 23-1 Sweet Chantal scored a one-sided victory; Bea D J Code won by a nose in a race in which the 4-5 Bella Bella struggled to finish a distant third; and Cat Reign took the nightcap, in which the 3-5 Truly tired and finished a badly beaten fourth after being hung wide and off the pace throughout.

Things changed in a hurry the day after Christmas, with nary a horse leading at every call on the 12-race program. The closest thing to a front-running victory was turned in by the pace-dueling Indy Connection. The best performance of the afternoon, considering the conditions, was delivered by Amazing, who led every step but the last, dropping a heartbreaking nose decision to Sweet Repent in the Stage Door Betty.

Caveat Cat proved he is in peak form. He was the only horse to win from off the pace Monday, rallying from last to easily wear down pacesetter Sonic Black for his second consecutive victory.

KEY RACE OF THE YEAR

There wasn't a key race more potent around here, or perhaps anywhere in 2009, than the eighth at Calder on Nov. 20. Of the eight horses who have come back to run out of the $32,000 claiming race for 2-year-old fillies going a mile, six won their maidens in their next race. The latest was Cat Reign, who finished fifth as the favorite in this key race before returning to win her maiden five weeks later.

The other next-out winners from the race were second-place finisher She's a Sleeper, who scored a 2 3/4-length win in a $32,000 maiden claimer going a mile Dec. 20; third-place finisher She's a View, who dropped into $16,000 company and won by 15 lengths Dec. 5; fourth-place finisher She'smorethanatiger, who also came back under a $32,000 tag around two turns and won by nearly nine lengths Dec. 13; seventh-place finisher Caladesi Lady, who shipped up to Tampa Bay Downs and captured her next start by 1 1/4 lengths under a $12,500 tag Dec. 19; and eighth-place finisher So Like a Tiger, who won her maiden by 1 1/4 lengths against $12,500 claimers here Dec. 18.

Only Squeezer's Palace, who won this key race by 3 1/4 lengths, has yet to run back. He finally returns in Saturday's second race and figures to be a square price moving up into $32,000 starter allowance company.

COMING ATTRACTIONS

Racing in the south Florida circuit moves across town Sunday for the opening of the 2010 Gulfstream Park meet. The session will get off to a quick start, with Quality Road scheduled to make his first appearance since his unfortunate incident at the starting gate just before the Breeders' Cup Classic in Sunday's Grade 3 Hal's Hope Handicap. Quality Road turned in the best performance of his career over the same strip in the spring, when he coasted to victory in the Grade 1 Florida Derby.

WORKOUTS

The following horses entered Saturday have all recently turned in notable works:

Dare to Double (2nd race): Finished about a length behind stablemate Gesu in a half-mile drill Dec. 19. Gesu came off that drill to capture Saturday's Inaugural Stakes at Tampa at a huge price.

Presently (8th race): He is in new hands since his last start, and his most recent gate drill was promising. He showed early speed before tiring slightly under mild pressure to complete five-eighths in 1:03.76.

I've moved to Gulfstream in the mornings for the winter and must get used to the faster workout times, although the strip was on the deep side Dec. 29. These horses might be worth watching when the 2010 meet opens off last week's trials:

* Curragh finished full of run while working a half mile in 47.56 seconds Dec. 24.

* Beau Choix went a half-mile in 48.10, shading 12 for the final furlong while under little pressure and equipped with rings that same morning;

* Loveyou Everybody indicated she may relish a return to conventional dirt after finishing strong at the end of her 48.38-second half-mile move Dec. 26.

* Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile winner Furthest Land appeared to handle conventional dirt just fine after zipping five furlongs in 59.50 after an opening three eighth in 34.60 on Monday.

HORSES TO WATCH

Prime Precision

Trainer: Reed Combest

Last race: Dec. 23, 2nd

Finish: 2nd by 3/4

Three-year-old filly turned in a big effort in her first start in 10 weeks after serving an involuntary hiatus as one of the horses affected by the recent quarantine. She raced within striking distance before being shuffled back along the rail into the far turn, then had to alter course again at the head of the stretch before finishing with interest once clear. Knocking on the door against bottom-level conditioned claimers.

Victory Cat

Trainer: Allen Iwinski

Last race: Dec. 26, 1st

Finish: 5th by 8 3/4

Well-backed first-time starter lost all chance when leaving the gate far behind the others in his debut. Made a big run to move within striking distance while three wide turning for home, but he could not sustain the bid. Should benefit with a race under his belt when making his 3-year-old debut at Gulfstream.

Malibu Knight

Trainer: Richard Sacco

Last race: Dec. 26, 5th

Finish: 1st by 1/2

Overcame slow and eventful start and captured his career debut on the turf. Lagged far back and seemed to have little chance when swinging extremely wide turning for home, but leveled off with a strong rally that easily carried him past the defenseless leader in deep stretch. Son of Malibu Moon figures to get even better around two turns.