03/31/2010 11:00PM

Gulfstream roundup



Nobody in this or perhaps any other jockey colony has been hotter than Paco Lopez, who won 10 races last week, including four wins in a row Thursday, March 25. A former Eclipse Award-winning apprentice, Lopez followed that performance with riding doubles Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. He spread the wealth, winning for nine trainers.

Trainer Marty Wolfson won only two races last week, but both came in stakes races: Gentleman James in the Sir Shackleton and Speak Easy Gal in the Orchid. Wolfson has won 13 races and finished first or second with more than 50 percent of his starters at the meet. Five of those victories have come in stakes races, accounting for more than $800,000 of the more than $1 million in purses he has earned here this winter.


All of the riders who sat off the trotter-like pace in - each successive quarter was run in 26 and change - save for the savvy apprentice Frederic Lenclud, who put Bearpath in perfect position to steal the race from the likes of Never On Sunday and Winchester.

Whoever is in charge of setting the post times as well as overseeing the claim box. Both parties contributed to a situation that virtually prevented trainers from being able to claim a horse out of Sunday's fourth race. The problem began when the third race was delayed nearly 10 minutes after jockey Cornelio Velasquez broke his stick in the starting gate just before the scheduled start. Unfortunately, nobody had the foresight to readjust the post time for the fourth race, leaving only 13 or 14 minutes left to post on the toteboard as the horses were still making their way from the barn area to the paddock. Since, by law, the claim box must be removed 15 minutes before post time, the unidentified trainer who tried to drop a claim immediately after the third race had been made official was denied the opportunity because of the snafu.


With few exceptions, it remains difficult to win a race here over the main track when not laying close to the lead turning for home or when not racing off the inside rail. A breakdown of the week:

Wednesday, March 24: Another big day for outside stalkers, a running style that accounted for four of the five main-track races. The lone exception was Wendy's Wonder, who went wire to wire in the first, and even she was taken off the rail by jockey Luis Saez for the stretch run. No bias to report in the four turf races, two run over the inside course with the rail down and two on the outer with the rail set at 72 feet.

Thursday, March 25: Same old, same old on the main track, with outside stalkers winning five of six, the lone exception being Alwaysacontest's wire-to-wire win in the sixth race. No front-running wins on the grass, with stalkers taking both races decided over the outer course and one stalker and one closer (Molly Molly Molly) accounting for the two inner-course events.

Friday, March 26: A lot of rain, a sloppy track, and no turf racing. Surprisingly, there was no real bias over the wet main track, with four front-running winners, three stalkers, and three closers accounting for the day's 10 races. It did appear the rail was getting worse as the afternoon progressed, but that theory went out the window when horses racing near the fence, both favorites, won the ninth and 10th.

Saturday, March 27: Nary a front-running winner over the main track all afternoon, although being close to the lead was the place to be, save for odds-on Single Malt in the opener and Street Appeal, who rallied from off a pace that collapsed in the seventh race. The rail was set out at 84 feet, and the drying-out turf course also did in the front-runners, with stalkers accounting for all four races, topped by Bearpath's unlikely tally in the Grade 3 Pan American.

Sunday, March 28: Speed and horses racing on or near the rail dominated the six main-track races; the exception was Sweet N Sour Nina's late-striding win in the seventh. No real bias over the inner or outer turf courses, although Speak Easy Gal was the only horse to lead at every call in five events decided on the turf.


Most of the locally based 3-year-olds have begun heading north, with the exception of trainer Todd Pletcher's gang, which will continue to hole up at Palm Meadows until the third week of the month. This will be my final 3-year-old ratings for potential Kentucky Derby starters who stabled in the south Florida area during the meet.

1. Eskendereya: Tops on everyone's Derby list heading into the Wood.

2. Rule: Thought he ran huge in defeat in , although, obviously, his running style is a key issue heading to Kentucky.

3. Odysseus: Needs a nice nine-furlong tightener and a little experience, not a victory, in the Blue Grass.

4. Ice Box: I think he's a notch below the best, but his running style could be a huge plus in this year's Derby.

5. Mission Impazible: His stock moved up a whole bunch after .

6. Pleasant Prince: Not far behind Ice Box, but he could have issues getting into the Derby field because of his earnings.

7. Super Saver: Like Rule, he was game in defeat in his 3-year-old debut but is another who looks pretty one-dimensional.

8. Jackson Bend: Gets one more chance to earn his way into the Derby on Saturday in New York.

9. Discreetly Mine: Earned his way into the big dance with a couple of big tries at Fair Grounds but may have a better future at a mile than at 1 1/4 miles.


A look at some of the horses who will be racing here Saturday:

I'm It Wayne (1st race): Finished with good interest in his March 21 work, which I had in 49.20 with a final furlong in 11.68. He also galloped out strongly into the turn, going five-eighths in 1:01.41. He adds blinkers after a narrow loss in his last start.

Waltzing With Blue (6th race): The racetrack has been dry and cuppy over at Calder for much of the winter, and his 49.43 drill Monday was about as good as it gets over there.

Blowback (7th race): Best of a pair of Patrick Biancone's horses from the gate March 21, going five furlongs in 1:00.54 without pressure while a couple of lengths in front of his workmate from the outset. He faces a tough task making his debut out of the mile chute.

Performing (8th race): She has had four works since winning her maiden for a high tag Feb. 10, including a sharp half in 48.25 in company with stablemate Cherokee Warpaint on March 6.

Cristiano (9th race): This Group 1 South American winner concluded a nice series of works with a solid move from the gate over a deep track Monday morning at Calder, although he was under a bit of pressure through the final furlong to finish a half in 49.79 before shading 1:03 for the gallop-out. Those numbers may not sound that great but are nearly as good as it gets from the gate across town right now.


Bandon Dunes

Trainer: Michael Mareina

Last race: March 28, 8th

Finish: 5th by 4

His turf debut was a disaster from start to finish, although he did display a turn of speed and an affinity for the grass despite a horrible trip. This son of Mr. Greeley took up at the break, rushed to contention between horses upon recovering, and then steadied along numerous times in traffic when obviously full of run.

Christmas for Liam

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Last race: March 27, 11th

Finish: 3rd by 3 1/4

Good-looking Saint Liam colt showed promise despite finishing third in his debut when forced to take up after the break and race wide throughout. He appeared full of run while under confident handling from jockey Joe Bravo following the slow start, but just could not kick on with the leaders in the final sixteenth of the seven-furlong race. Figures to be very dangerous with a race under his belt.

Sweet Chantal

Trainer: Pedro Maestre

Last race: March 24, 8th

Finish: 2nd by 1 1/2

Steadily improving 3-year-old has gotten even better since switching to the grass for her last two starts. This daughter of Snow Ridge finished best of all despite checking at the break and having to fan extremely wide at the head of the stretch to find clearance in a recent mid-level claimer for 3-year-old fillies on the grass.