02/04/2010 12:00AM

Gulfstream roundup

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WHO'S HOT

Javier Castellano

Castellano had the best week of any rider in this outstanding jockey colony, posting eight victories from Jan. 27-31. A native of Venezuela, Castellano, 32, saved his best for the weekend, taking the early daily double Saturday before closing the week with a hat trick the following afternoon to surge into second place in the standings behind John Velazquez. Castellano was also kind enough to share the wealth last week, posting his eight wins for eight trainers.

John Velazquez

Johnny V. isn't about to relinquish his spot atop the leaderboard too easily, posting six winners himself Jan. 27-31, including three for Todd Pletcher on Friday's card. The 2004 and 2006 Gulfstream riding champ, Velazquez also helped This Ones for Phil survive a thrilling stretch-long battle to defeat Pashito the Che in the .

Bill Mott

The Hall of Famer joined Pletcher as the only trainer to post three wins last week, emerging from his mini-slump at the beginning of the meet. Each of Mott's three victories came with a promising 3-year-old, highlighted by Kentucky Derby hopeful Drosselmeyer's impressive allowance win Sunday.

Sweet Repent

This Calder-based filly proved she was anything but a horse for the course last Saturday, shipping across town to win the here. The victory was her fifth in a row, the first four coming over her home course. Trained by David Braddy and ridden by Manny Cruz, Sweet Repent will be given a well-deserved 60 days off on the farm with an eye toward taking her newfound road game to Saratoga later in the year.

TRACK TRENDS

The main track continues to remain extremely fast in the mornings and afternoons and is also favoring horses on or near the pace. Speed is also doing surprisingly well on the turf over both the inner and outer courses.

There were 11 two-turn races decided last week over the inner grass course (with the rail out 36 feet). Four of the races were won on the lead, and a fifth was won by a pace stalker from less than a length back. Among the front-running tallies was an amazing performance by Drover, who dragged Velazquez to nearly a 15-length lead in the run down the backstretch, yet still had enough left to register a nose decision going a mile under first-level allowance conditions.

Of the six races contested over the outer course (rail out 108 feet), half were won on the front end, including Jet Propulsion's gate-to-wire victory in the , and another was one from second position, a length off the lead.

Here is a breakdown on the main track from last week.

Wednesday, Jan. 27: Outside closers won the first two main-track races, speed on the rail the last three.

Thursday, Jan. 28: A mixed bag with a pair of rail-running, wire-to-wire tallies and three outside stalkers rallying their way into the winner's circle.

Friday, Jan. 29: The first four dirt races were won by outside stalkers, the last by a game, pace-dueling Uwannapieceofthis, who was positioned off the fence throughout.

Saturday, Jan, 30: All speed on the main track, save for Diced N Sliced's rail-skimming victory from off a contested pace in the opener.

Sunday, Jan. 31: A little more of a mixed bag with a pair of wire-to-wire wins, including Bickersons's tour de force over a rain-dampened track late in the day in the . There were also two wide-running, off-the-pace efforts from the Mott-trained duo of Drosselmeyer and undefeated 3-year-old filly Comic Marvel.

AREA'S TOP 3-YEAR-OLDS

There is a wealth of 3-year-old talent stabled in the area this winter, although with the Florida Derby moved to March 20, many of the big names may look elsewhere for their final Kentucky Derby prep. I had to revise the top-five list when the horse who would have been my number one contender, Winslow Homer, was sent to the sideline earlier this week with a stress fracture.

1. Jackson Bend: Forced a hot pace while hung wide and was game in defeat behind Winslow Homer in the . He will get a stamina test in the nine-furlong Fountain of Youth.

2. Eskendereya: His only bad effort so far came over the Pro-Ride in the . He rebounded with an allowance win out of the mile chute earlier in the session but is another who must answer the 1 1/8-mile question in his next start.

3. Buddy's Saint: Hasn't missed a beat in the morning and is training forwardly for his 3-year-old debut, but heading into the Fountain of Youth he is a race behind the top pair in terms of seasoning.

4. Super Saver: Showed steady improvement at 2, topped by an easy win over William's Kitten in his juvenile finale, but he has worked only twice since returning from the farm last month and will have some catching up to do this spring.

5. Rule: He punched his ticket into the Derby with his easy and well-graded win in the . From the looks of that work tab, he should be about ready to kick off his 3-year-old campaign.

WORKOUT REPORT

Two races of interest on Saturday's card, from the standpoint of horses I've been able to see work at Gulfstream, are the maiden special weight dash for 3-year-olds and the big one, the Grade 1 Donn Handicap.

Sixth race

Sun Dance Moon: One of two from trainer Rick Dutrow's barn debuting in this spot. The son of Malibu Moon has shown high speed in his last two works, both from the gate, after being just nursed around for an easy seven furlongs on Jan. 15. Zipped through an opening half-mile in 45.94 with the aid of a pretty strong tailwind before tiring some late to complete six furlongs in 1:11.40 on Jan. 21, then returned six days later with another fast move into a headwind.

Nadal: This was a horse I bet the first time he ran here on Jan. 14 off a sharp five-furlong drill six days earlier, and he turned in a corking effort at 14-1 on the front end before succumbing to a pair of promising 3-year-olds, Odysseus and Forward Harch. He has returned with another bullet five-furlong drill in company with older stablemate A.P. Ridge, breaking off several lengths behind and outfinishing his workmate while well held before galloping out in 1:13.34.

Tenth race

Duke of Mischief: Couldn't be doing any better and appears none the worse for wear coming out of his hard-fought neck victory in the Grade 3 Ft. Lauderdale three weeks earlier. Zipped five furlongs in 58.13, completing his final furlong into a headwind in 11.62 while also shading 1:11 going out to the mile pole on the clubhouse turn after the renovation break on Saturday.

Dry Martini: Preceded Duke of Mischief with a fast five-furlong drill in 58.88 on Saturday, although was under a bit more pressure to gallop out three-quarters of a mile in 1:11.58. He too is coming out of the Ft. Lauderdale.

Mambo Meister: Has really picked up the pace in his two five-furlong works since the Ft. Lauderdale, when he was bogged down in the deeper going on the rail making his first start since the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile. Improving gelding will have a new pilot, Kent Desormeaux, for his rematch Saturday with Duke of Mischief and first encounter with Quality Road.

HORSES TO WATCH

Far From Shy

Trainer: Steve DiMauro

Last race: Jan. 27, 2nd

Finish: 2nd by 2 1/4

Young filly was much the best in her local debut. She walked out of the gate, had to take up in traffic after rushing to contention along the inside on the turn, and swung four wide once clear to take a run at the leader before succumbing from the effort through the final furlong. She was claimed out of the race by owner Frank Calabrese and should return quick dividends if properly spotted next time.

Prestidigitation

Trainer: Wayne Catalano

Last race: Jan. 29, 6th

Finish: 1st by 4 1/2

Overcame a horrific trip to beat a well-matched group of mid-level claimers in his second local start after fighting a bias in his previous start. He checked off horses near the rail down the backstretch, was shuffled well back in the pack, and took up again at the quarter pole before drawing off with authority once clear.

Afleet Express

Trainer: Jimmy Jerkens

Last race: Jan. 30, 2nd

Finish: 2nd by 1 3/4

A son of Afleet Alex, he looks like a 3-year-old with a big future, especially if he's able to lick the gate problems that have forced him into tough trips in his first two starts. After overcoming a slow start to win his career debut in New York, he could not quite recover from a second slow start against the swift and undefeated General Maximus over what has been a speed-favoring track.