03/04/2010 1:00AM

Gulfstream roundup



Javier Castellano

Blanked the previous week, Castellano caught fire last week, winning eight races to move into a dead heat atop the standings with John Velazquez. All eight of Castellano's wins came for different barns, and five of the last six came on turf. Among his best performances were a rail-skimming tally in a five-furlong turf dash aboard Bernie the Maestro in Sunday's second race and a picture-perfect ride in Friday's main event on Lemon Spice, who got through near the inside to get the jump on and outfinish wide-running favorite Vacation.

Honorable mention in the jockeys' room goes to Paco Lopez, who posted five victories last week, and Kent Desormeaux, whose four wins included a hat trick last Saturday.

Richard Dutrow Jr.

Never at a loss for words, Dutrow expressed confidence in Radiohead and Amen Hallelujah, even though neither had run over dirt before last Saturday. Both registered impressive victories in their local debuts. Radiohead thrust himself onto the Kentucky Derby trail and earned himself a possible berth in the Grade 1 Florida Derby. He keyed a one-two Dutrow finish with an easy second-level allowance win over Grade 1-winning stablemate Homeboykris. Amen Hallelujah toyed with her competition, including the odds-on Bickersons, in and is expected to use the Bonnie Miss here later this month as a possible springboard to the Kentucky Oaks.

Dutrow was the only trainer to win three races here last week. Among those with two wins in that period were the Calder-based trio of Eddie Plesa Jr., Milt Wolfson, and Herman Wilensky, as well as Bill Mott, Terri Pompay, and Anthony Sciametta, who was deputizing for the suspended Todd Pletcher.


The main track showed more balance last week than we've seen all meet, with an equal number of front-runners, stalkers, and closers winning the 32 dirt races decided in that period. Speed struggled on the grass until Sunday, when both turf routes were captured by front-runners, including Presious Passion's popular triumph in at 1 3/8 miles.

A more detailed breakdown of the week:

Wednesday, Feb. 24: Plenty of rain and no turf racing. Front-runners took five of the nine races on the sloppy main track, although several of those were kept well off the rail.

Thursday, Feb. 25: No bias over the main track. Closers won all three races decided over good turf.

Friday, Feb. 26: Speed and the rail dominated on the main track. Closers won three of the afternoon's four turf events.

Saturday, Feb. 27: Showers late in the day forced the final race to be switched from the turf to a sealed main track. Stalkers and closers dominated the dirt races, with the rail clearly the deepest part of the track. Late runners accounted for all three turf races, including .

Sunday, Feb. 28: Speed struggled on the main track with the rail again a dead zone throughout the day. The turf course was listed as good, with both turf sprints won from off the pace and the two route races won on the lead.


Hard to place blame on anyone for the fiasco that occurred when Saturday's nightcap was switched from turf to dirt with less than 10 minutes to post, but the betting public was the loser, specifically those who were alive entering the 10th race in multi-race wagers with horses handicapped for the grass.

This was not the first time such a situation has occurred at this meet. The last case was clearly management's fault for leaving the last race on the grass in the wake of heavy rains earlier in the day. Hopefully, some good will come out of this in the form of a new state rule that would protect the bettor - any race in a multi-race wager not decided over the originally scheduled surface should be declared an "all" for the purpose of determining winning wagers in the affected pools.


With the Florida Derby only three weeks away, here is one man's opinion of how the south Florida-based 3-year-old division ranks:

1. Eskendereya: Separated himself from the rest of the class with his performance in the Fountain of Youth.

2. Rule: Was impressive enough in to earn a slight edge over the others.

3. Odysseus: Doesn't have a dollar in graded stakes earnings but gives the impression he has plenty of upside off his two 3-year-old victories.

4. Radiohead: Showed promise at 2 on artificial surfaces, looked even better with his big win here last weekend.

5. Jackson Bend: Hard-knocking little warrior was no match for Eskendereya, but who is at this point?

6. Super Saver: Showed plenty of promise at 2 but still must prove he can not only reproduce those performances but move forward at 3.

7. Noble's Promise: Like Super Saver, he has some catching up to do in the Derby picture.

8. Fly Down: Opened his 3-year-old campaign with a good win over a talented rival in First Dude going nine furlongs, but he'll have time for just one shot at posting enough graded earnings to qualify for the Derby.

9. Discreetly Mine: Had everything pretty much his own way in and still has some distance questions to answer.

10. Tempted to Tapit: Has put together a couple of big efforts at 3 but will have to prove himself one more time to earn Derby respect.


Not much of interest to report for Saturday's card regarding the horses I've seen training at Gulfstream Park. It seems most of the newer faces in the maiden races are coming from Palm Meadows or Calder.

Security Zero (2nd race): Finished a couple of lengths behind stablemate Wandaful Wandaful (3rd race) when the pair went five furlongs in company Feb. 26. Wandaful Wandaful wheels back against maiden-special-weight opposition after nearly winning her career debut on the turf here last weekend.

Classic Reward (2nd race): He was going easily while finishing on even terms with pressured stablemate Rollwitdlittleman, going a half in 48.50 seconds on Feb. 20 before galloping out a strong five-eighths in 1:01.35. He outran his odds at first asking but is taking a big class hike today.

Freycinette (3rd race): Has worked three times since arriving from the West Coast. In her last work, she went a decent five furlongs from the gate in 1:00.68 with mild urging through the final eighth while a couple of lengths in front of more experienced stablemate Crack Thepat.

Heir Raiser (4th race): He has had four works since a disappointing 3-year-old debut. He went 46.33 for a half and 58.89 with the aid of a stiff tailwind Feb. 5. He went a slower half in 48.26 and weakened near the end after tossing some quick early splits into the face of a similarly brisk wind Wednesday.

Walt's Whiz (6th race): He was well within himself going five eighths in 1:00.70 while outfinishing a stablemate last Saturday. He looks much fitter than when he zipped a half in 46.88 but weakened late Jan. 23 in his first drill over the local strip.

Just Playing Around (8th race): He sharpened his speed, breezing an easy half without urging in 47.25 and galloping out five furlongs in 1:00.06 on Feb. 27.

Bears Finish Line (10th race): He has looked good on several occasions in the morning. He displayed high speed Feb. 4, when he went three eighths in 34.28 and pulled up a half-mile in 46.35 from the gate. I liked the two six-furlong drills on his resume as well as that last five-furlong gate move in 1:01.63, which was accomplished without the need of urging and into a very strong headwind down the backstretch.



Trainer: Darrin Miller

Last race: Feb. 27, 10th

Finish: 1st by nose

Making his debut going five furlongs on the turf, this Maryland-bred 3-year-old overcame a rough trip when taken up sharply in traffic while full of run leaving the quarter pole, but was still good enough to get up in time to win by a whisker.


Trainer: Christophe Clement

Last race: Feb. 26, 9th

Finish: 3rd by 2

Was left with much too much to do at the end in The Very One after being taken back to last around the opening bend of the 11-furlong stakes. A Dynaformer mare, she finished best despite fanning about eight or nine paths wide coming off the final turn.

War Hoot

Trainer: Chad Brown

Last race: Feb. 26, 6th

Finish: 4th by 3

Lightly raced 4-year-old colt is much better than this start would indicate. He was given little chance after ducking out about six wide around the opening turn and lagging too far off the leaders before being steadied sharply trying to maneuver through traffic in early stretch.


Trainer: Shug McGaughey

Last race: Feb. 26, 8th

Finish: 2nd by 1 1/4

Another who was victimized by an outside post and wide trip, he also was forced to alter course after finally getting clear and settling into his best stride near midstretch of an allowance race on the turf.