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Make the Point impresses with win
HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin is beginning to show the initial signs of Derby fever - in two countries.
On Thursday, McLaughlin sent out Make the Point to a good-looking first-level allowance win, a performance that will send him to the Grade 2, $350,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes here on Feb. 24.
On Sunday, McLaughlin will send out the Argentine-bred Morador Llers in a second-level allowance race at Gulfstream. A solid showing in this spot could earn Morador Llers a shot in the UAE Derby at Nad al Sheba in Dubai on March 29. Though recognized as a 4-year-old in North America, Morador Llers would be considered a 3-year-old in the Southern Hemisphere.
Make the Point, a son of Menifee, was making his first start for McLaughlin in Thursday's seven-furlong allowance heat, a race brought back from Jan. 18 when Gulfstream's final two races were canceled due to a power failure. Make the Point wasn't entered for that race, but McLaughlin thought the re-drawn race might be an easier race than a similar race scheduled for next Saturday.
Make the Point ran twice as a 2-year-old when trained by George Weaver. He won a 5 1/2-furlong maiden race in June before finishing last in the Saratoga Special on Aug. 13, a race from which he emerged with bucked shins.
Owner David Moore of Edgewood Farm transferred Make the Point and several other horses to McLaughlin last fall.
Make the Point, under John Velazquez, on Thursday showed speed from the outset, running fractions of 22.43 seconds and 45.18. Turning for home, Make the Point began to draw away from the field en route to running seven furlongs in 1:23.73. He earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 85.
McLaughlin said he feared the horse might show speed having not raced since the summer. But he left the riding tactics up to Velazquez.
"That's why we were happy to have Johnny ride him - do your thing," McLaughlin said. "It would have been nice sitting back a little bit, but he said he did it easy."
Being by Menifee - who finished second in the 1999 Kentucky Derby - McLaughlin is confident Make the Point can stretch out.
"He should," McLaughlin said. "He trained like a good one ever since we got him. It's exciting."
Morador Llers gets first test
Off the success of 2006 Horse of the Year Invasor, Sheikh Hamdan's Shadwell Stable purchased four horses from South America last year. One of them was Morador Llers, who won a Grade 1 race in Argentina at a mile on turf.
Sunday, Morador Llers will make his North American debut in a 1 1/8-mile race, which McLaughlin is hopeful will set him up for the UAE Derby.
"He's trained really well, he's a real nice horse," McLaughlin said. "I wish it was a mile first time out, but we need to get him started. Our goal is to take him to Dubai."
Sunday's race should be a decent test for Morador Llers. Among his rivals will be Merchant Marine, a son of Tiznow who attempts two turns for the first time for Allen Jerkens. Merchant Marine is coming off a half-length defeat at this level on Jan. 10 going 7 1/2 furlongs.
Sale Pending, a Ken McPeek trainee, has finished second twice in this condition, including a two-length loss to Sir Whimsey here on Jan. 16.
Cowboy Cal eyes Hallandale Beach
Those hoping to see the multiple-stakes-winning 3-year-old Cowboy Cal try the dirt in his next start will be disappointed to learn that trainer Todd Pletcher is "leaning pretty strongly" to running the colt in the $75,000 Hallandale Beach Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on turf here Feb. 16.
After finishing seventh in his debut on dirt, Cowboy Cal reeled off three consecutive wins on the turf, including the Laurel Futurity and Tropical Park Derby. The latter two races were the same races 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro won before he raced on dirt.
Pletcher said that following the Hallandale Beach, Cowboy Cal could be pointed to the Blue Grass Stakes run over Keeneland's Polytrack. If successful in those two races, Pletcher said it is possible Cowboy Cal could then be pointed to the Kentucky Derby.
"You see some turf horses run pretty well at Churchill," Pletcher said.
Halo Najib to OBS Championship
Halo Najib, the beaten favorite in the Grade 2 Hutcheson Stakes on Jan. 5, will be pointed to the $150,000 OBS Championship Stakes at 1 1/16 miles, trainer Dale Romans said. The OBS races will be held on Feb. 11 on the new synthetic surface on the Ocala Breeders Sales grounds
Romans picked the OBS race because Halo Najib's only win came over the Polytrack at Keeneland last fall. The OBS surface is Safetrack.
"I want to try him around two turns, he ran well on Polytrack at Keeneland, the purse is $150,000; couldn't think of a reason not to go," Romans said after watching Halo Najib work six furlongs in 1:14.60 on Friday morning at Gulfstream.
Though Halo Najib was beaten four lengths in the Hutcheson, Romans didn't think it was all that bad of a race.
"He gave himself a little too much to do, but we were wanting him to relax early," Romans said. "He had a lot of work to do turning for home. He came running, he just couldn't get there. I think he's a very underrated horse."
Romans said that he is planning to run Eaton's Gift in Saturday's Swale Stakes here. Eaton's Gift will be turning back to a sprint after setting the pace and backing up to seventh in the CashCall Futurity at 1 1/16 miles last month at Hollywood Park.
"We'll try to stretch him out again sometime but right now we'll sprint him," Romans said. "He's a very talented horse."
Veteran Terific Storm in fine form
Trainer Todd Pletcher is sending out his geriatric set this weekend at Gulfstream Park. On Saturday, Pletcher was to have saddled the 7-year-old Icy Atlantic in the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Turf.
Sunday, Pletcher will send the 7-year-old Terrific Storm in the Grade 3, $125,000 Appleton Handicap. Terrific Storm enters the Appleton in career form with two wins sandwiched by two dead heats for second. In both of those dead heats, the margin of defeat was a neck.
Terrific Storm, a son of Storm Cat, has yet to win a stakes race but he has run well at Gulfstream, taking two allowance races in the winter of 2006.
"We're hoping he's a horse for course," said Pletcher, who trains Terrific Storm for Alex Campbell Jr. "He's kind of finding his own stride at age 7. He's training as well as he ever has. It's a pretty ambitious spot but in light of how well he's doing, it's worth a shot."
* Hotstufanthensome, a multiple Grade 3 winner, finished second in a $62,500 claiming race Friday. He was claimed by trainer Teresa Pompay on behalf of Main Street Stable.