02/11/2010 1:00AM

Gulfstream roundup

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WHO'S HOT

Paco Lopez

After going three-for-January, the 2008 Eclipse Award-winning apprentice broke out of his slump in a major way last week, posting seven victories, including three Feb. 4. Frustrated by a string of narrow misses last month, Lopez suddenly had the close finishes going his way. His most important victory of the week came Saturday aboard trainer Jim Hatchett's top 3-year-old prospect, Wildcat Frankie, who, despite breaking from the tough inside post out of the one-mile chute, held his position on the fence and turned back a big challenge from runner-up Bank the Eight in the middle stages of the entry-level allowance race.

Javier Castellano

Nobody has been riding with more confidence in the last several weeks than Castellano, who saved his best for last by capturing a pair of races Saturday and again Sunday. Three of those four wins came over the tricky turf course. Castellano's best effort may have come aboard trainer Chad Brown's promising 3-year-old Day of Destiny, whom he maneuvered into perfect position after breaking from the rail en route to an impressive win in a seven-furlong maiden race.

Jim Hatchett

The Calder-based horseman, who returned from a self-imposed four-year hiatus from training last summer, was the only trainer to send out three winners here last week, including the aforementioned Wildcat Frankie. Hatchett again showed his prowess with first-time starters by having Pride of Mambo ready and well-spotted to capture his debut in Sunday's opener. Wildcat Frankie and Pride of Mambo (who was claimed out of the race) wore the colors of Hatchett's principal client, Frank Bertolino's Monarch Stable.

TRACK TRENDS

The trends were a mixed bag last week, although front-runners so far have struggled more than usual to successfully carry their speed from gate to wire over the main track. That's not to say that having the ability to lay close up is not a big advantage, since the majority of winners in the opening five weeks of the session have come from within a couple of lengths of the leader turning for home.

The best day for front-runners last week was Thursday, when the dirt course was playing extra fast, although even that advantage seemed to wane as the afternoon progressed.

There were only four days of turf racing last week, since the course needed extra time to dry out from soaking rains Monday. All 14 races decided over the grass Thursday through Sunday were with the rail set out at 60 feet. No real trends to speak of, although front-runners did win a pair of races Sunday.

SUSPICIOUS RESULT OF THE WEEK

Bold Anna's rallying victory in last Saturday's opener, a low-level claiming race for fillies and mares, should have raised a few eyebrows from the stewards' stand. Bold Anna had failed to finish in her previous start, albeit for a much higher tag, but that performance came in her first try over dirt, and it appeared she just didn't like that surface.

Yet despite the dismal effort in her local debut, the Canadian invader returned 17 days later. She showed no interim works and was hammered at the windows from the moment they opened, eventually going off at 5-2 and rewarding her backers with a narrow victory.

PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK

Obviously, Quality Road's record-setting effort in , in which he earned a 121 Beyer Speed Figure, gets the No. 1 star for the week, but give Bim Bam a tremendous amount of credit for his gutsy victory over Quality Road's stablemate Interactif in the Hallandale Beach the following afternoon. A versatile horse based in Calder, Bim Bam fought back bravely after being headed by the odds-on favorite near the sixteenth pole, reasserting himself to win a nose bob at the wire for his third stakes win and second on turf.

COMING ATTRACTIONS

One of the most important races of the meet is just around the corner. The Grade 2 Fountain of Youth on Feb. 20 will feature a bevy of the top Kentucky Derby prospects stabled in south Florida this winter, led by Jackson Bend, Buddy's Saint, Eskendereya, Drosselmeyer, William's Kitten, and Aikenite. The undercard that afternoon will also feature another important 3-year-old race, the Grade 3 Hutcheson at seven furlongs.

WORKOUT REPORTS

The strength and direction of the wind can have as profound if not more of an effect on workout times as trainer intent or the weight of the exercise rider. This applies especially to gate workouts at a track like Gulfstream Park, where the gate is set between the 6 1/2- and seven-furlong poles and horses have a straight three-furlong run before they hit the turn.

Gate workouts into a strong headwind should, on average, be far slower than those that are aided by a tailwind in the run down the backstretch. Both conditions have prevailed fairly regularly throughout the last month. A significant tailwind, for example, led to extremely fast gate works Feb. 5, and headwinds slowed the times throughout the early portion of last week; Wednesday's conditions were the harshest since the period from Jan. 24-27.

Saturday's card offers several examples of the aforementioned phenomenon as well as a few other key workouts turned in by horses racing Saturday.

First race

Holy Poppi: Was credited with a bullet five-furlong work Feb. 5, although he actually was second-best with a final time of 59.30 seconds working in company with stakes winner Royal Vindication (58.84), the pair zipping off wind-aided early fractions of 22.42 and 33.58 before tiring slightly heading back into a slight gale down the stretch.

Mr. Realistic: Like Holy Poppi, he has also worked in company recently with no less a mate than Eclipse Award winner She Be Wild. They, too, ripped off extremely fast, wind-aided fractions of 22.63 and 34.06 seconds Jan. 21 before She Be Wild edged away at the end, with Mr. Realistic posting a final clocking of 59.43. His six-furlong drill eight days later was without a workmate and again featured fast early splits before he weakened to complete the distance in 1:12.49 under pressure.

Trois Desir: Will race in blinkers for the first time Saturday. Worked a half in 47.24 seconds after an opening three-eighths in 34.76, although he didn't gallop out particularly strongly into the clubhouse turn.

Boy's Bad: His gate work Jan. 17 came in company with stablemate Roar of the Kitty and was aided by a strong tailwind, the pair covering five furlongs in 1:01.52, albeit without any real urging during the drill.

Fourth race

Mr. Market: Benefited from a brisk tailwind in his recent gate work, covering five furlongs in 58.89 in company with stablemate Heir Raiser. Neither, however, was under any real pressure throughout.

Sixth race

Showmanship: He has turned in some fast works over the last several weeks. He went 59.02 under late pressure Jan. 20, 1:00.06 from the gate into a mild headwind 11 days later, and 59.82 while kept wide off the turn last Saturday.

Boisterous: Has had a couple of gate works over the last four weeks in preparation for his debut, both in company with stablemate So Explosive, who finished third launching her career here last week. Boisterous worked five furlongs in 59.26 with the aid of a strong tailwind Jan. 16 and the same distance in 1:01.06 into the same mild headwind as Showmanship on Jan. 31.

HORSES TO WATCH

Never on Sunday

Trainer: Patrick Biancone

Last race: Feb. 6, 9th>br ?Finish: 3rd (placed 2nd) by 1 3/4

This Group 1-winning European invader appears to be back in peak form after turning in a big effort in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap. He ran huge despite getting a little hot and excited in the paddock and then losing considerable ground while attempting to rally from last off a less-than-frantic pace in his U.S. debut.

Straight Talk

Trainer: Graham Motion

Last race: Feb. 5, 3rd

Finish: 8th by 9 3/4

A son of Macho Uno, he looked well spotted to pick up his maiden win and may have done so if he had not gotten stood on his ear and checked sharply while seemingly full of run nearing the eighth pole and again at midstretch of a mid-priced claiming race on the turf. This young gelding should handle the same kind with any racing luck next time.

Neverrguwithrichie

Trainer: Larry Rivelli

Last race: Feb. 4th, 7th

Finish: 4th by 8

This filly appears to be much better than the final result of her debut run might indicate. She showed speed following a slow start to contest the pace of a six-furlong maiden special weight dash, then raced greenly to compromise further her chances during the latter stages of the race. A clean beginning should have this 3-year-old out and winging and perhaps playing catch-me-if-you-can in her next appearance.