Updated on 04/06/2011 10:54AM

Gulfstream title looks like Pletcher's again

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Bob Coglianese
R Heat Lightning, John Velazquez up, wins the Gulfstream Oaks.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Trainer Todd Pletcher did not win the $1 million Florida Derby on Sunday. It was about the only race he didn’t win here last weekend.

Pletcher’s potent stable captured nine races over Florida Derby weekend, five on Saturday’s Oaks card and four more the following afternoon on Florida Derby Day. Pletcher’s five winners on Saturday tied his own Gulfstream Park single-day record set on Florida Derby day in 2007. Three of Pletcher’s nine winners came in graded stakes: the $150,000 Rampart with Awesome Maria, the $300,000 Gulfstream Oaks with R Heat Lightning and the $150,000 Swale with Travelin Man.

Pletcher has won 47 races during the meet and all but sewn up his eighth straight Gulfstream training title.

“We could see two or three weeks out we were loaded up in terms of entries for this weekend,” said Pletcher. “Quite a few of the horses were training well coming up to it. I can’t say that any of them were shocking results to us. We felt like we were coming into it with a pretty strong hand. Overall, it was a good weekend. Of course you’d have liked to have run a little better in the big race than we did.”

Pletcher sent out Stay Thirsty to finish seventh in the Florida Derby.

Pletcher said he was particularly impressed by the performance of both R Heat Lightning and Awesome Maria winning their respective stakes on Saturday.

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“I thought they were both exceptional,” said Pletcher. “I also thought Travelin Man was very good. Christmas for Liam is a horse that’s developing and probably goes to the Westchester next,” on April 30 at Belmont.

Pletcher, who had 102 horses stabled in south Florida at the beginning of the week, has begun shipping many of them out to different northern venues, including Kentucky Derby favorite Uncle Mo. But he still plans to keep a large contingent on hand until the remainder of the meeting on April 24 and stands a good chance of eclipsing his own personal best of 60 winners here in 2007. The Gulfstream single-meet record was established by Mark Shuman who won an astounding 87 races here in 2003.

Jackpot tops $900K

A carryover of more than $977,000 will be up for grabs in the 10-cent Rainbow Pick 6 pool when racing resumes on Thursday. The steadily growing jackpot has piqued interest in the wager, with the daily pool having been no less than $109,000 over the last 12 racing programs, peaking at $236,297 on Florida Derby day. To win the jackpot, a bettor must have the only ticket on the winning combination. The pick six has been hit four times this meet, the first time for more than $194,000, but not since Feb. 13.

If nobody wins the jackpot, the entire pool will be dispersed among all winning ticket-holders on closing day, April 24.

New talent in Clement barn

Trainer Christophe Clement appears to have another rising turf star in his barn in the English-bred Longhunter, who captured Saturday’s Alligator Alley overnight stakes in just his second U.S. start. Alligator Alley, a 3-year-old son of Halling, is owned by Silverton Hill LLC.

“I was very disappointed when he didn’t win his first start here,” said Clement, adding that the result prompted him to make a change in jockeys, with Julien Leparoux replacing Alan Garcia aboard Longhunter for the Alligator Alley.

Longhunter raced a bit rankly behind the early leaders before drawing off impressively in the Alligator Alley.

“He’s got more speed than I thought,” said Clement. “I’m not sure what’s going to be next. We’ll just take him back to Payson and regroup. The important thing right now is that he won today.”

Regal Ransom solid in comeback

Regal Ransom launched his 2011 campaign here Sunday, finishing second behind Grade 1 winner Capt. Candyman Can in the Sir Shackleton overnight stakes. It was the Grade 2-winning Regal Ransom’s first start since he tired after setting the pace in the Grade 1 Clark on Nov. 26.

“He got beat by a very good horse today, but it was a good race for him first time back,” said Rick Mettee, assistant to trainer Saeed bin Suroor. “The inside post kind of hurt us, as the wire comes up pretty quick at this track. We’ll probably try him back around two turns off this, and we have plenty of options, including the Westchester or the Alysheba. It will probably depend upon who shows up where.”

– additional reporting by David Grening

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