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Gulfstream roundup and Saturday clocker report
Julien Leparoux opened the week of March 10-14 with a hat trick Wednesday and closed it by posting a riding double Sunday that included a wire-to-wire victory aboard Warbling for trainer Eddie Kenneally in . Leparoux and Kenneally also combined to win a maiden special weight race with the promising 3-year-old filly Go for Jan earlier in the week.
Javier Castellano continues to sizzle, leading all riders again last week with seven victories, highlighted by a hat trick Saturday featuring You and I Forever's upset triumph in . Castellano capped another big weekend with a riding double Sunday.
Terri Pompay had her most memorable week of the meet, sending out three winners, topped by the red-hot Mannington's tally in Sunday's $75,000 Sunshine State Stakes. Pompay also won a pair of races Thursday with D' wild Angel and the hard-knocking mid-level claimer He's So Chic.
Todd Pletcher led all trainers with four wins during the week, the most noteworthy being Casanova Move's hard-fought allowance win in her first start since the Alabama last summer at Saratoga.
Aside from Pompay and Pletcher, the only trainer with more than two wins during the week was Nick Zito, who posted three more victories to solidify his hold on second place in the standings behind Pletcher.
Torrential downpour Friday had a major impact on racing last week, not only forcing the second half of the card to be canceled but eliminating turf racing Saturday. The rain also eliminated the pronounced speed bias that had influenced all races on the grass for nearly two weeks.
A day-by-day breakdown of the cards is as follows.
Wednesday, March 10: Speed and stalkers dominated on the main track, with only Sarah and Me's come-from-behind maiden win bucking that trend in six main-track races. The final two grass races on the card were won from gate to wire by the odds-on Inca King (rail at 36 feet) and Favorite Flashback (rail at 108 feet), with the third taken by the pace stalking Wicked Woman of Ny (rail at 108 feet).
Thursday, March 11: A strong tailwind down the backstretch, but more of a mixed bag on the main track than there was the previous afternoon. D' wild Angel in the opener was the only wire-to-wire winner on the day. Direct Line and Dubai Gold rallied from off the pace to capture allowance races, with Dubai Gold benefitting from a hotly contested pace that consumed favorites Uwannapieceofthis and Headache to win at 1 1/4 miles. Granted Tiger bucked the final day of the turf-course speed bias when rallying from mid-pack to win a first-level optional claimer on the grass.
Friday, March 12: A miserable day all around, with plenty of rain leading to the card being canceled after the fourth race. A pair of first-time starters, R J's Prospect and Set the Trend, splashed to wire-to-wire victories in the early daily double, although Nathan's Ridge and Economic Tsunami won the afternoon's only other two events from off the pace.
Saturday, March 13: No turf racing and no bias over the drying-out main track, which yielded four wire-to-wire winners, three pace-stalking winners, and three victories by horses rallying from back in the pack, topped by You and I Forever's performance in the Gulfstream Park Handicap.
Sunday, March 14: Speed killed over the main track Sunday, with four gate-to-wire winners and two stalkers accounting for the six dirt races. The rain-soaked grass course saw a huge shift in the track bias when it finally reopened for business, with all four turf events won from off the pace, two with the rail out 36 feet and two over the outer course at 108 feet.
RATING THE SOUTH FLORIDA-BASED 3-YEAR-OLDS
Eskendereya is clearly the top 3-year-old stabled here this winter, and arguably the best of his generation at this juncture of the season, so having him drop out of Saturday's Florida Derby was a major blow. did little to help separate Odysseus and Super Saver in the rankings. The undefeated Tiz the One jumped into the mix after his impressive victory in the only local 3-year-old race of significance here last week. Noble's Promise no longer qualifies for this list; he is expected to remain at Oaklawn Park to prepare for the Arkansas Derby.
The latest rankings
1. Eskendereya: Far and away the local division leader. His presence will be sorely missed in the Florida Derby.
2. Rule: He becomes the Florida Derby favorite in the absence of his stablemate but must prove he can step up big once again Saturday.
3. Odysseus: Earned an "A" for courage and enough graded money in a strangely run Tampa Bay Derby, giving trainer Tom Albertrani plenty of options in advance of the Kentucky Derby.
4. Super Saver: He held in gamely after being headed at Tampa despite failing to change leads down the stretch in a much needed outing. Should move forward off this performance.
5. Radiohead: Loved his 3-year-old debut, but there have been rumbles that there may be some physical issues brewing. It was hard to get a gauge off his turf work Monday, when he scraped the outside fence, breezing closer to six furlongs than five when all was said and done.
6. Jackson Bend: A gritty little competitor, he is perhaps a notch below the best but is hard to leave off this list and now faces the unenviable task of taking on Eskendereya once again in the Wood.
7. Fly Down: What he gives away in seasoning he makes up for in talent, but he's facing an uphill climb from a timing standpoint in his quest to make the Derby lineup.
8. Discreetly Mine: It will be interesting to see whether he can repeat his Risen Star performance if a different pace scenario should develop in the Louisiana Derby.
9. Drosselmeyer: After further consideration, his Risen Star performance was probably a bit better than it looks on paper, considering the way the race unfolded.
10. Tiz the One: A longshot to make the Derby with only two starts to date, but he appears to have a ton of upside and a bright future.
A few interesting horses who've been working at Gulfstream and are racing on Saturday's Florida Derby card.
Precious Package: He has been away since October but owns a series of workouts this winter, including five furlongs in 59.76 in company with Radiohead.
Biloxi: A $350,000 yearling purchase who, like stablemate Precious Package, hasn't missed a beat in the morning here this winter. He broke off two lengths in front of D' Funnybone on March 15 and finished a length to the good at the wire, completing five furlongs in 1:00.11 without urging. One of many contenders in a wide-open maiden special weight dash.
Alma d'Oro: He has switched from one high-profile barn to another, going from Richard Dutrow to Todd Pletcher, and has turned in a steady series of sharp works, including a 1:00.43 five-furlong drill March 5 in which he completed the final furlong in 11.59 before galloping out three-quarters in 1:13.69.
Bears Finish Line: Another with a steady string of impressive-looking workouts in preparation for his career debut. I caught him in 46.35 for a half-mile while eased up late from the starting gate Feb. 4 and 1:01.63 from the gate while in hand into a stiff headwind Feb. 26. He faces a tough assignment going a mile against a full and contentious lineup at first asking.
SEVENTH RACE (BONNIE MISS)
Amen Halleluhah: Looked very sharp over the turf course Monday. Forget the time, five furlongs in 1:06.32, since the dogs were set out near the outside fence. She finished full of run and galloped out even better with jockey Julien Leparoux aboard.
EIGHTH RACE (RAMPART)
Bambera: South American flash worked an ordinary six furlongs here in 1:14.51 on March 5, galloped out seven-eighths in 1:27.88. For comparison, trainer Ken McPeek's top 3-year-old, Noble's Promise, went five-eighths in a zippy 1:00.16 several minutes later.
10TH RACE (SWALE)
D'Funnybone: Multiple graded stakes winner shaded 1:00 in his final prep for the Swale but could not pass his unraced stablemate Biloxi and didn't gallop out particularly well, three quarters in 1:15.16. The caveat to this information is that he worked in similarly unimpressive fashion before winning the Hutcheson four weeks earlier.
11TH RACE (FLORIDA DERBY)
Pulsion: Like D'Funnybone, he does not stand out during his morning trials. His final major Florida Derby prep came Monday, when he went five-eighths in an ordinary 1:01.46, breaking off two lengths behind stablemate Catalan(who finished sixth in his only start) and finishing about a half-length in front under mild urging.
Rule: I saw the Florida Derby favorite breeze five furlongs in 1:01.09 in company with Harlem Rocker at Palm Meadows on March 7, and the pair went the opening three-eighths in 35.60 before tiring just a bit nearing the wire over what was a somewhat cuppy racetrack that morning.
Radiohead: He worked dynamite over the main track in preparation for his 3-year-old debut but did not look quite as sharp when hugging the outside fence over the turf course Monday. It's hard to gauge that type of work on the grass with the dogs out so far, but I would have preferred to have seen a little strong gallop out.
HORSES TO WATCH
Trainer: William Mott
Last race: March 14, 10th
Finish: 3rd by 2
Son of Unbridled's Song suffered through a nightmarish trip in a recent one-mile maiden turf outing. He was steadied along several times while racing rankly early and was taken up again seeking clearance while seemingly full of run near the eighth pole.
Dance With Class
Trainer: Eduardo Caramori
Last race: March 14, 7th
Finish: 2nd by 1/2
The connections and backers of this filly couldn't help but think they had the best horse after her gritty runner-up performance on the turf. She broke in the air and left the gate well behind the field, then rushed to contention and dueled the rest of the way on the front end before losing to the late-striding winner.
Trainer: Chad Brown
Last race: March 11, 6th
Finish: 3rd by 3 1/2
Exits a much-needed outing, his first in nearly a year. He again showed potential on turf despite getting shuffled back along the inside near the three-furlong marker. He improved 8 Beyer points off his career debut last winter despite the trouble and being equipped with blinkers for the first time.