Updated on 02/04/2015 3:19PM

Lea tops 10-horse field for Grade 1 Donn

Barbara D. Livingston
Lea will make his second start following an extended layoff in Saturday's Donn Handicap.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – A field of 10 older horses has been entered to run Saturday at Gulfstream Park in the $500,000 Donn Handicap, the first Grade 1 dirt race for older horses this year in North America.

Lea figures as a solid favorite to defend his title in the 60th running of the 1 1/8-mile Donn, which anchors a 13-race, six-stakes program. The 6-year-old Lea tuned up for the Donn by winning the Jan. 10 Hal’s Hope in impressive fashion when returning from an 11-month layoff.

The Donn will be co-featured with the San Antonio Stakes from Santa Anita on the leadoff telecast in the Jockey Club Tour on FOX series (5:30-7:30 p.m. Eastern).

In post position order, and with weights and jockeys, this is the field for the 60th Donn: Constitution, 119 pounds, Javier Castellano; Commissioner, 118, John Velazquez; East Hall, 117, Luis Saez; Lea, 121 pounds, Joel Rosario; Elnaawi, 115, Julien Leparoux; Catholic Cowboy, 115, Paco Lopez; Sloane Avenue, 114, Jose Lezcano; Protonico, 118, Joe Bravo; Blue Tone, 116, Corey Lanerie; and Prayer for Relief, 116, Edgard Zayas.

:: DRF Live: Watch live handicapping analysis of Saturday’s biggest races

One notable absentee from the Donn is Liam’s Map. Trainer Todd Pletcher, who still will be represented by the trio of Constitution, Commissioner, and Protonico, said Liam’s Map instead will be pointed to the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Handicap, a one-mile race March 7.

:: DONN HANDICAP: Get PPs, watch Saturday’s card live

Two of Pletcher’s remaining Donn starters were players in a terrific 3-year-old class last year: Constitution won the Florida Derby, and Commissioner was narrowly beaten in the Belmont Stakes. Constitution will be making his first start in 10 weeks, while Commissioner stands to benefit from an allowance prep here last month.

One of the Donn longshots is Blue Tone, whose connections avoided running against California Chrome and Shared Belief in the San Antonio by shipping the 6-year-old gelding across the country from Los Angeles.

“This is a really good group, but I think the top horses in the San Antonio are probably the elite of the division,” said trainer Bob Hess Jr. “I firmly believe our horse will move up over the Gulfstream surface.”

Also featured on the FOX show will be the Grade 1, $300,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap, a 1 1/8-mile race that has lured some of the top turf horses on the East Coast. Imagining was assigned post 3 as the 120-pound topweight in a field of nine that also includes Mshawish (post 1) and defending champion Lochte (post 8).

Entries also were drawn Wednesday for four other Saturday stakes: the Grade 3, $150,000 Suwanee River (race 10); the Grade 3, $100,000 Fred Hooper (race 11); and a pair of $75,000 turf sprints, the Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint (race 5) and Texas Glitter (race 3).

Special first post Saturday is noon. Gulfstream also will card 13 races Sunday, even without a stakes, with first post also set for noon.

◗ Saturday marks the debut of the cross-country pick four wager linking the Donn and Gulfstream Turf Handicap with the San Antonio and San Marcos stakes from Santa Anita. The Stronach Group is guaranteeing a pool of $500,000 for the new wager.