02/07/2012 12:34PM

Gulfstream: Travelin Man, Gourmet Dinner try to shake off rust in featured sprint

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Adam Coglianese
Travelin Man, winner of last season's Swale, will make his first start since August in a high-priced optional claimer scheduled for 6 1/2 furlongs Thursday.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Technically speaking, the ninth race, a third-level optional $80,000 claiming a event with a $60,000 purse, is the feature on Thursday’s card at Gulfstream Park. But the third race on the program, a second-level $62,500 optional claimer worth $56,500, is certain to draw the most attention.

Thursday’s third race at 6 1/2 furlongs has attracted a field of seven older horses, including a pair of graded stakes winners, Travelin Man and Gourmet Dinner, both of whom are launching comebacks following lengthy vacations.

Travelin Man has not started since finishing seventh and last behind Caleb’s Posse in Saratoga’s Grade 2 Amsterdam on Aug. 1. Travelin Man has had his finest moments over the local strip. He launched his career with a sensational 7 1/4- length debut victory, earning a 106 Beyer Speed Figure, last January and also won the Grade 2 Swale later in the 2011 meet.

“We just stopped on him and gave him some time off after his poor effort in the Amsterdam,” said trainer Todd Pletcher. “He’s training well and we know he likes it at Gulfstream so it’s a good spot for his return.”

Travelin Man, a son of Trippi, has had six recorded workouts at Palm Meadows in preparation for his return, including five furlongs in 1:00.60 on Jan. 15.

Gourmet Dinner has been away even longer than Travelin Man, having been idle since finishing second in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth more than 11 months ago. At the time he went to the sidelines, Gourmet Dinner was considered a prime Kentucky Derby candidate, having already amassed enough graded earnings to get into the Big Dance with his victory in the $1 million Delta Jackpot in his 2-year-old finale.

Gourmet Dinner was trained by Steve Standridge during his abbreviated 3-year-old campaign but has joined trainer Bruce Brown’s barn for his 4-year-old season.

“He’s been doing unbelievable,” said Brown. “We did a lot of slow two-minute lick stuff to get his wind into him just like Steve did last year. We know he’s got his speed when needed. We just wanted to make sure he was good and fit. Travelin Man is a real nice horse but the way Gourmet has been training he should be right there, even though 6 1/2 furlongs is probably a little shorter than ideal. The main thing is to just get him back over there again and that this race gives us something to build on moving forward.”

Trainer Marty Wolfson will counter Travelin Man and Gourmet Dinner with two members of his potent stable, Thank U Phillippe and Golden Moka.

Thank U Phillippe is coming off a second-place finish under similar conditions going seven furlongs at Tampa Bay Downs on Jan. 18. Thank U Phillippe is seeking his first victory since capturing Tampa’s Sophomore Stakes back in April 2010.

Golden Moka joined Wolfson’s stable late last season but was never a factor in his first start since changing barns, finishing a distant sixth under allowance conditions here on Jan. 7.