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Host can't shake off a rough trip
HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Host could not overcome an eventful trip and finished second as the odds-on favorite to the late-striding Full Flow in Monday's $46,000 allowance feature. His effort was good enough, though, to earn him a trip to Dubai next month for the UAE Derby.
Host, a Chilean-bred, was knocked around as he left the gate, put in tight quarters along the fence into the clubhouse turn, and pressed through extremely fast fractions by Mark One in Monday's eighth race. Those factors left him vulnerable when Full Flow finished full of run through the stretch to beat a game but tiring Host by two lengths.
The outcome left trainer Todd Pletcher with mixed emotions following the race.
"I'm certainly not discouraged by my horse's effort, only the way the race unfolded and the final result," said Pletcher, who trains Host for Laura and Eugene Melnyk. Of Eibar Coa, the jockey on Mark One, Pletcher said, "It seemed like Mr. Coa wanted to get in our pocket a little bit. He was chirping to his horse the whole way, and I thought Host ran very courageously. He showed me has some guts with that performance."
Host, a Group 1 winner on dirt in his native Chile, has finished second in both of his U.S. appearances, which have come on grass. The UAE Derby will be decided over the main track at Nad al Sheba Racecourse in Dubai.
"The main objective today was to get a good race into him for the UAE Derby," said Pletcher. "I didn't think I could get him to Dubai as well as I would have liked, with only one race under his belt. He was a little headstrong today, but I don't think he'll be as headstrong on the main track, and his natural speed should be more beneficial on dirt than it is on grass."
Ziadie targets Florida Derby for Silver Wagon
Silver Wagon worked five furlongs in 1:02.60 at Calder on Monday, after which trainer Ralph Ziadie said he has decided to point Silver Wagon for the $1 million Florida Derby on March 13.
Ziadie had left his options open for Silver Wagon, a Grade 1 winner, following his third-place finish in the Fountain of Youth. Ziadie had also considered the seven-furlong Swale on the Florida Derby undercard.
"We've had a lot of little setbacks with this horse since he won the Hopeful, but if all goes well between now and the Florida Derby, I think he deserves the chance," said Ziadie. "We missed five days of training with this horse prior to the Fountain of Youth."
Ziadie added that jockey Jose Santos "said he did not abuse him once he knew he had third all wrapped up" in the Fountain of Youth.
Silver Wagon finished third, eight lengths behind Read The Footnotes, in the Fountain of Youth. Santos, who rode Silver Wagon for the first time that day, worked Silver Wagon on Monday and will have the mount again in the Florida Derby.
Ziadie will miss some training between now and the Florida Derby; he undergoes surgery March 4 to have a kidney removed but hopes to be back on his feet in time for Florida Derby day.
Does Young have another Irgun?
In 1994, trainer Steve Young brought a lightly raced 3-year-old named Irgun to the brink of the Kentucky Derby. Ten years later, Young hopes he can take the inexperienced, but perhaps equally talented, Wild Wadi all the way to the first Saturday in May.
On Saturday, Young sent out Wild Wadi to a maiden win at Gulfstream Park. Wild Wadi was making his second career start, and his first since June 11, when he ran second behind the subsequent stakes winner Ruler's Court.
After sitting behind Everwood and China Gold going into the first turn, Wild Wadi tipped three wide for the stretch drive and closed powerfully, with Jerry Bailey hitting him only twice. Wild Wadi won by two lengths, covered seven furlongs in 1:22.69 - almost two seconds faster than the other half of that division - and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 95.
"Few things in racing go perfect, this might have been one of them," said Young, who noted that Wild Wadi was the first horse he started at Gulfstream in 16 years. "He broke well, he settled, took some dirt, went and got them when Jerry wanted to, and he seemed to come out of it in good order."
Young pursued Wild Wadi after his first start, but Wild Wadi came out of his debut with a chip in his knee. Eventually, Young purchased Wild Wadi from Cobra Farm - an outfit for whom Young trained several years before quitting in December - and he arrived in his barn in December. Wild Wadi is now owned by Jon and Sarah Kelly, who also own a piece of Borrego, the California-based 3-year-old who finished second in the Sham Stakes.
After Saturday's race, Bailey spoke to Young about perhaps running next in the Grade 3, $200,000 Gotham at Aqueduct on March 20. Ten years ago, Young and Bailey teamed to win the Gotham with Irgun in Irgun's third career start. Irgun then won the Wood Memorial by six lengths over Go for Gin, but bruised his feet and missed the Derby, which Go for Gin won.
"There's a lot of similarities between the two horses," Young said of Wild Wadi and Irgun. "It's like Coach [John] Wooden said: You'd rather have someone who was inexperienced that could really play than have someone with experience who can't. Horses that are really terrifically talented can make up for their inexperience."
Young said he would consider the Gotham or a two-turn allowance race at Gulfstream next month.
Storm Flag Flying set for 4-year-old debut
Storm Flag Flying, the champion juvenile filly of 2002, will make her 4-year-old debut under allowance conditions in Thursday's eighth race. A daughter of Storm Cat, Storm Flag Flying was undefeated at 2 but made only two starts last season. She has not run since finishing second in the Grade 2 Comely Stakes on April 18 and has spent the winter at Palm Beach Downs.
Trained by Shug McGaughey, Storm Flag Flying could use Thursday's race as a springboard into the Grade 2 Rampart Stakes on March 14.
Purge makes successful return
Purge, another in the assembly line of talented 3-year-olds trained by Todd Pletcher, made a successful return to the races Sunday, winning an entry-level allowance race by three lengths. He covered six furlongs in 1:09.54 and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 99.
Purge only faced three horses Sunday, sitting behind a two-ply speed duel before taking over turning for home.
"I liked the way he did it. I like the way he finished up. It's nice to have him back and to see him run well," Pletcher said.
Purge, a son of Pulpit out of the stakes winning mare Copelan's Bid Gal, won his maiden at first asking last August at Saratoga. Pletcher said Purge needed surgery to remove a chip from an ankle.
Pletcher said Purge could make his next start in either the Gotham at Aqueduct or the $100,000 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park. Both races are run March 20.
No plans set for Tapit's return
Trainer Michael Dickinson said Monday that no decision has been made regarding the return of Tapit, his undefeated 3-year-old.
Speaking from his Tapeta Farm in Maryland, Dickinson said there are many options available for Tapit, including the Florida Derby, and a lot will depend on how Tapit progresses over the next several weeks.
Kitten's Joy likely for Transylvania
Kitten's Joy, who remained undefeated on turf after winning Saturday's Palm Beach Stakes, will most likely make his next start in the Grade 3, $100,000 Transylvania Stakes on turf at Keeneland on April 2. The Transylvania would serve as a prep for the Grade 3, $100,000 Crown Royal American Turf at Churchill Downs on April 30.
"Even though it's backing up to a mile, I think he can handle it," Romans said.
Romans said Blushing Indian, who finished sixth as the second choice in the Hutcheson Stakes, has resumed training after a trip to the Rood and Riddle Equine Clinic revealed Blushing Indian had no physical problems.
Romans said Blushing Indian came out of the Hutcheson a bit weak but showed improvement in his training Sunday and Monday. Romans also said if Blushing Indian continues to make progress, he would be pointed to the $100,000 Rushaway Stakes at Turfway Park on March 20.
* Jockey Jerry Bailey took off both his mounts on Monday's card, Pleasant Ghost and Orchard Park, for family-related reasons, according to his agent, Ron Anderson. Bailey was expected to return to action when racing resumed Wednesday.
- additional reporting by David Grening