04/08/2010 12:00AM

Gulfstream roundup

Email

WHO'S HOT

Once again, nobody is doing it any better these days than jockey Paco Lopez. After setting the 2010 one-week standard the previous week with 10 victories, Lopez came back to win a dozen races from March 31-April 4, including hat tricks on the Thursday, Friday, and Sunday cards. Lopez saved perhaps his best performance for , in which he slipped Arson Squad through along the biased rail to register a popular win against older horses. The streak blew the 2010 jockey race wide open and all but assured Lopez of his first Gulfstream Park title.

Another of Lopez's 12 wins last week came aboard Arrow's Flight, a 6-year-old gelding who continues to dominate the lower-level starter allowance set. Arrow's Flight registered his third win of the meet and fifth straight victory overall for owner John A. Damico and trainer Anthony Pecoraro when he easily handled a field of $5,000 starter allowance rivals going a mile here Saturday.

Apprentice Luis Saez had little luck in the opening 10 weeks of the meet but is looking like the rider who was so dominant in the second half of 2009 across town at Calder. Saez turned in the week's best single-day performance, bringing home four winners on Saturday's program, beginning with both ends of the early daily double for owner Frank Carl Calabrese and trainer Nick Canani. Saez posted another consecutive double midway through the program aboard Just Playin Around for Tim Hills and Smart Miler, whom he brought back from apparent defeat in deep stretch to capture a fairly loaded one-mile maiden race for 3-year-olds.

WHO'S NOT

A lot of Calder-based riders and trainers couldn't be happier to see the Northern invaders start packing their tack or tack rooms and begin heading home for the season this week.

It's been a particularly rough meet for most of the regulars in the south Florida riding colony. Even perennial local champ Manny Cruz maintained only a 5 percent win mark (9 for 181) through the first three months trying to compete against easily the deepest and most talented jockey colony in the country. Among the others who will be glad to see their northern colleagues depart are Sixto Riberta (4 for 52), Luca Panici (1 for 50), Manny Aguilar (1 for 50), Jose Rivera II (2 for 62), Danny Coa (3 for 57), Eddie Dominguez (2 for 112), and Jeffrey Sanchez (2 for 113).

TRACK TRENDS

Speed dominated the Friday and Saturday programs over the main track with the rail definitely the place to be on both afternoons, a rare occurrence at a meet during which the inner part of the dirt course has seemed the deepest on almost a regular basis.

The rail was set at 12 feet for the inner turf course and 84 feet on the outer throughout the week. The recent dry spell and the heavy usage of the entire course in general this meet has again given a bit of an advantage to horses on or near the pace in grass races, no matter the placement of the temporary rails.

A breakdown of the week's trends on a daily basis is as follows:

Wednesday, March 31: A mixed bag on the main track, with front-runners winning a pair, closers a pair, and a pace-stalker taking the fifth dirt race on the card. Both turf courses, the inner and outer, produced similar results.

Thursday, April 1: We began to see the first real evidence of what turned into a three-day speed bias. Front-runners won the first three main-track races on the program, with the fourth going to Our Dreamette, who rallied from just off the lead. Stalkers won 3 of the 4 turf races, including both decided over the inner course.

Friday, April 2: An even more pronounced speed bias on the main track. Each of the six main-track winners was in front settling into the stretch, the majority having led at every call. Horses racing along the rail also seemed to have a definite advantage, a fact perhaps best borne out by Cassidys Pride's wire-to-wire upset over wide-running favorites D'wild Ride and First Passage in the Harmony Lodge Stakes. Speed and stalkers swept the four races on the grass.

Saturday, April 3: For the second day in a row, speed and the rail were king over the main track. Four of the six dirt races were won wire to wire. Allez Reef scored a popular victory from just off the lead, and Arson Squad did likewise by slipping up the fence to capture the Grade 3 Skip Away. Paseo Alegro's impressive late-running victory in the finale was the only one of four turf races won from mid-pack or beyond.

Sunday, April 4: Not sure what happened overnight, but the speed/rail bias was gone, and in its place came the old, familiar trend of pace-stalkers and closers from outside having their way over the main track. Genuine Diamond, Quick Notice, and Hot Trip all used outside moves to capture the second through fourth events on the Easter Sunday program. Both turf races run on the outer course were won from gate to wire, the two over the inner by horses rallying from off the pace.

PERFORMANCES OF THE WEEK

The only real bright spot this winter for trainer Allen Jerkens was the performance of Formidable, who won all three of his starts, including his turf debut Sunday. Formidable, a son of Sky Mesa, overcame a slow beginning to outfoot a decent field of grass sprint specialists under allowance conditions.

Allez Reef gave every indication he could be a 3-year-old to reckon with as the year progresses after winning an entry-level allowance dash going seven furlongs Saturday for trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. Allez Reef earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 97, a point lower than his previous best, posted three weeks earlier, when he was a game second behind the undefeated Tiz the One.

WORKOUT REPORT

Here are a few key workouts I've seen this winter and spring from horses competing on Saturday's card.

Fifth race

Scorion: His last gate work was a lot better than it looked on paper, considering the nature of the Calder strip these days. Only Dream of Atlantic, a debut maiden special weight winner Wednesday, had a better three-furlong split from the gate April 3 than Scorion, who proceeded to go out a half in 50 and five-eighths in 1:03.47 without urging. He gets a bug rider still seeking his first career victory. Might be worth tossing in off the bench at a big price.

Eighth race

Game On: A son of Elusive Quality, he has shown promise in the morning right from the start this winter. On Jan. 7, he went three-eighths in 35.87 and galloped out a half in 48.34 in hand. Two weeks later, he worked three-eighths in 35.78 while completing his final eighth in 11.53. The Feb. 26 gate work of 48.17 was into a strong headwind; in the March 20 gate work, he zipped the first five-eighths in 59.50 before tiring some through the final furlong.

Green Monster: He turned in one of the most visually impressive debut runs of the meet March 6 and has followed with a series of nice works, including one March 31, when he came home his final three furlongs in 37 seconds over a very deep track before galloping out extremely well into and around the clubhouse turn.

HORSES TO WATCH

Rhys

Trainer: Tom Albertrani

Last race: April 3, 8th

Finish: 6th by 1 1/4

Storm Cat filly was pinched at the start, and things got only worse. She was jammed in traffic along the hedge and forced to steady numerous times behind the leaders while seemingly full of run in her first try against winners.

Real Rooster

Trainer: Rick Dutrow

Last race: April 3, 5th

Finish: 3rd by 1 1/4

Son of Harlan's Holiday made his debut under a $35,000 price tag sprinting on the grass and showed enough to warrant attention next time. He broke a step slow, dropping well back early, before finishing full of run and easily galloping out past the leaders shortly beyond the wire.

Exchange Funds

Trainer: Mark Hennig

Last race: April 4, 9th

Finish: 5th by 2

You couldn't have orchestrated a worse trip than the one this daughter of Speightstown received as the favorite in a high-level maiden claimer on the grass. She was steadied along numerous times and shuffled farther and farther back in the pack in the run down the backstretch. She lost considerable ground trying to get clear turning for home before finishing with interest after eventually finding room to run.