02/16/2012 1:49PM

Gulfstream: Seven furlongs of Sprint Championship new challenge for Force Freeze

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – At the top of the stretch of the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, it appeared Force Freeze was on his way to victory, only to be run down late and drop a neck decision to ultimate Eclipse Award winner Amazombie. It’s a moment Force Freeze’s trainer, Peter Walder, will never forget.

“That race still haunts me,” said Walder. “I think we ran the best horse that day. They say Force Freeze ran 15 feet further than the winner, but none of that matters. We still finished second.”

Force Freeze will take his first step towards avenging that setback and getting a Breeders’ Cup win of his own later this year when he opens his 2012 campaign in Saturday’s $150,000 Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship. The Grade 2 event will be decided at seven furlongs and drew a field of eight that includes Grade 1 winner Capt. Candyman Can.

Force Freeze began his career in the U.S. before spending his brief 2010 campaign and the opening portion of his 2011 season in Dubai, where he ran with minimal success over the Tapeta surface at Meydan. Owner Saeed Naser al Romaithi sent Force Freeze to Walder last summer at Monmouth Park and the gelding has since been rejuvenated. Force Freeze won Monmouth’s Teddy Drone by four lengths and finished second over a muddy surface in Belmont Park’s Grade 1 Vosburgh as a prelude to his narrow and frustrating loss on Breeders’ Cup Day.

The Gulfstream Park Sprint will be Force Freeze’s first start at seven furlongs and how he handles the distance figures to go a long way towards determining his itinerary leading up to the 2012 Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita. Force Freeze will be reunited in the Gulfstream Park Sprint with jockey Paco Lopez, who was aboard the 7-year-old for both the Teddy Drone and Vosburgh but was replaced by John Velazquez in the Breeders’ Cup.

Force Freeze has turned in a series of extremely impressive works in preparation for his return, topped by his six-furlong drill in 1:10.86 under Lopez here on Feb. 4.

“He’s doing great,” said Walder. “Seven furlongs scares me a little bit although it scared me less after he drew post 8. If he runs the way he did at Monmouth I have no doubt he’ll get seven furlongs without any problem. Obviously, our main goal this year is to get back to the Breeders’ Cup. The way he’s training right now, I just wish that race was tomorrow.”

While seven furlongs is a question mark for Force Freeze, it’s a distance Capt. Candyman Can handles best. Capt. Candyman Can has won 5 of 7 starts at seven furlongs, including the Grade 1 King’s Bishop at Saratoga during the summer of 2009, when he was elevated to first via the disqualification of Vineyard Haven. He, too, has Breeders’ Cup experience, having finished eighth in the 2009 Sprint after which he was sidelined 15 months because of a chipped knee.

Capt. Candyman Can returned from a second layoff this past summer to finish fourth in the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector here on Dec. 31.

“He needed that race and I’m very happy with the way he’s been going since that last start,” said trainer Ian Wilkes. “He seems to be sounder now than ever and Javier knows this horse well from his 3-year-old season.”

Javier Castellano will be back aboard Capt. Candyman on Saturday for the first time since the 2009 Breeders’ Cup.

Of the others, Troilus and Bold Warrior appear to have the best chance of springing an upset. Troilus has won his last three starts for trainer Marty Wolfson but will be making his stakes debut in the Gulfstream Park Sprint. Bold Warrior is working well for his first start since mid-October, but drew the rail.

Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship S. (G2), Post Time: 4:45 ET Saturday

Purse: $150,000; 7 furlongs

Post

Horse

Trainer

Jockey

ML Odds

1

Bold Warrior

H. Jerkens

J. Lezcano

5-1

1

Capt. Candyman Can

I. Wilkes

J. Castellano

3-1

1

Decisive Moment

J. Arias

S. Madrid

12-1

1

Amancer de Oro

S. Duke

J. Castanon

15-1

1

Dixie Slam

A. Cioffi

D. Centeno

30-1

1

Troilus

M. Wolfson

E. Trujillo

6-1

1

Simba's Story

T. Pletcher

J. Velazquez

5-1

1

Force Freeze

P. Walder

P. Lopez

8-5