12/13/2011 2:30PM

Gulfstream: Ullapool has a test to pass

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Tom Keyser
Ullapool could step up to stakes company with a good race Thursday.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Trainer Wesley Ward is confident that Ullapool is stakes material. But first, the lightly raced juvenile filly must earn herself the right to step up to the next level with a victory in Thursday’s $53,500 co-feature at Gulfstream Park, a 6 1/2-furlong optional claiming dash that drew a field of eight 2-year-old fillies. The race shares top billing on the card along with a second entry-level allowance race for 2-year-olds scheduled to be run at 1 1/16 miles over the inner turf course.

Ullapool has done little to indicate she is stakes caliber in three previous starts at 2. A homebred daughter of Langfuhr, she has captured just 1 of 3 starts, her lone victory coming back in early July in a five-furlong maiden special weight race at Belmont Park. But Ullapool has certainly trained like a stakes horse in recent weeks, turning in a series of impressive six-furlong works at Gulfstream since a somewhat disappointing fifth-place finish as the 2-1 favorite against allowance company over Keeneland’s Polytrack on Oct. 22.

Ward even flirted with the idea of holding Ullapool out of Thursday’s allowance race to await the Grade 3 Old Hat on New Year’s Day. But since her owner, John Fort, already has another candidate, Sacristy, for the Old Hat, Ward decided to take the slightly more conservative route with Ullapool.

“She’s working like a bomb, and I think she wants to go more than six furlongs anyway,” Ward said following Ullapool’s most recent work, referring to the distance of the Old Hat.

Ullapool, who will have her blinkers removed for her 2-year-old finale, will have to beat a strong field if she is to earn a stakes berth at 3. The competition will be led by the Todd Pletcher-trained Broadway’s Alibi, who has not started since easily defeating an overmatched field of maiden special weight rivals by seven widening lengths in just her second career start on Sept. 10 at Delaware Park. Like Ullapool, Broadway’s Alibi is also working smartly for her local debut, with several fast works over the past month at Palm Meadows.

“I thought her win at Delaware was impressive, and she’s been training really well since she got down here,” said Pletcher. “This is a very competitive race, but based on the way she’s been training she should run very well.”

A couple of recent maiden-race winners at Calder, The Cat’s All That and Ciguaraya, figure to have a say in both the pace and final outcome of Thursday’s fifth event.

The Cat’s All That moved to dirt off a promising debut on Keeneland’s Polytrack surface to win her maiden race by eight lengths at Calder going 6 1/2 furlongs on Nov. 11. Ciguaraya was nearly as impressive winning her career debut across town, surviving an early speed duel before drawing away to a three-length triumph.

Which Market, who exploded to a maiden special weight victory once extricating himself from trouble in early stretch last month at Aqueduct, may be the horse to beat in the co-featured ninth race. A stretch-running son of After Market, he is one of numerous contenders in the well-matched field, along with the hard-luck but stakes-tested Argentine Tango, consistent Saturday Launch, improving Two Months Rent, and speedy Howe Great.