03/04/2009 1:00AM

How's Your Halo awaits richer stakes


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Coming off an upset victory over Ikigai in the Grade 2 Richter Scale Handicap, How's Your Halo figured to be tough to beat against statebred company in Saturday's inaugural running of the $75,000 Sunshine State Stakes at Gulfstream Park. Instead, owner-trainer Brian Pritchard has opted to pass the seven-furlong Sunshine State to try for a more lucrative payday a week later in the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap.

How's Your Halo wore down Ikigai to register a half-length win at odds of 47-1 in the seven-furlong Richter Scale on Feb. 14. The win was the most important for both How's Your Halo, a former claimer, and Pritchard, who got into Thoroughbred racing on a full-time basis following a 25-year career as a professional polo player.

"I just think the Gulfstream Park Handicap is a better spot for me," Pritchard said, a couple of hours after How's Your Halo worked a bullet half-mile in 47.80 seconds at Palm Meadows on Wednesday morning. "For the money, the statebred race is coming up pretty tough, and my horse has always been able to go a distance. I think a one-turn mile is a good deal for us, and the field is going to come up light."

A short but competitive field is expected for the Grade 2 Gulfstream Handicap, which will be run at a mile for the first time in its 65-year history. Along with How's Your Halo, the starting lineup is expected to include Cool Coal Man, Smooth Air, Arson Squad, Finallymadeit, and Bribon.

"He came out of the Richter Scale just beautiful and worked great this morning," said Pritchard of How's Your Halo. "The race should set up well for us. I think Finallymadeit will be on the lead and we'll be right on him, just like we were against Ikigai in the last one. The good thing is our horse will relax, and the numbers show he fits with these horses."

Pritchard said that while he obviously was pleased to have won a Grade 2 race, he was happier for his horse, who has suffered through some frustrating near-misses during his career. The most notable was a second-place finish behind Eclipse Award winner Benny the Bull in the 2008 Smile Sprint Handicap at Calder.

"He really deserved that last win," said Pritchard. "He's had nine seconds, a bunch of them in stakes, and we've never dodged anybody. Yet he's always kind of been on the back burner and never really gotten the attention he's deserved."

Pritchard, who owns a farm in Palm Beach, has only three horses in training at Palm Meadows but is hoping to slowly expand the business.

"I finally decided to retire from playing polo and switch to Thoroughbreds when my last contract expired about four years ago," said Pritchard, who traveled the world and played at the sport's highest level during his long career. "I have a polo field on my farm and still dabble in it a little bit, but I don't play anymore."

A field of only six, including a pair of supplemental nominees, was drawn for the Sunshine State. Yesbyjimminy figures to be the odds-on favorite against a group that also includes the much improved Hypocrite and recent allowance winner Green Vegas.

Arson Squad also tuned up on Wednesday for his appearance in the Gulfstream Handicap, working five furlongs in 1:01.60 at Gulfstream. Arson Squad will try to bounce back after finishing fourth behind Albertus Maximus as the 2-1 favorite in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap in his 2009 debut.

Turf gets badly needed water

The turf course was scheduled to be open for business again Friday after getting a brief break earlier this week. According to Gulfstream president Bill Murphy, the course was flooded with 700,000 gallons of water beginning immediately after the last race on Sunday and continuing through Tuesday.

"We've been in a drought situation here for the last three months," said Murphy. "It's been one of the driest winters in south Florida in a hundred years, and we just decided it was best to give the turf a little rest and get some water and fertilizer into it so we can have a good course to rely on for the remainder of the meet."

Albertrani sends out an exacta

Trainer Tom Albertrani, who has already won four stakes races here this meet, continued his hot hand on Wednesday when he sent out Ea and Unbridled's Heart to finish one-two in the featured eighth race. Ea drew in off the also-eligible list after East End Tap was scratched from the one-mile allowance.

Unbridled's Heart was ridden by Javier Castellano, who returned to action Wednesday for the first time since going down in a nasty-looking spill in last Saturday's opener. That mount was Castellano's first since returning from a shoulder injury suffered in a similar mishap one month earlier.

"I don't look at having back-to-back spills as bad luck, but as good luck that I'm healthy and able to ride again today," said Castellano. "I've been pretty lucky throughout my career; I've only had one serious injury in nearly 12 years, and I'm just trying to take Angel Cordero's advice, which was to turn the page and move on."