Updated on 09/16/2011 7:05AM

No alibis for Red Bullet's dud


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer Joe Orseno was left searching for answers and an explanation in the wake of Red Bullet's disappointing performance as the 1-2 favorite in Saturday's Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Handicap.

Under Jerry Bailey, raced within easy striking distance of the leaders for the opening mile of the 1 1/4-mile Gulfstream Park Handicap but gave up the chase at that point, struggling to the wire last of five starters and failing to change leads through the stretch.

"He looks happy and healthy and ate up everything after the race and again this morning," Orseno said Sunday. "He had a little spot on the ball of his heal where he grabbed himself but that was it. The only thing I can think of is that we put glue-on shoes on him for the race and perhaps he didn't handle the track. My main concern was that he didn't turn up sore the next day and fortunately that hasn't happened. So, to me, the race is just a throw out.

"We'll send him on to New York and probably not stray too far off from our original plans. Right now we're still thinking about the Stephen Foster in Kentucky for his next start."

The Stephen Foster, a Grade 1 race at 1 1/8 miles, will be run June 15 at Churchill Downs.

Orseno, his veterinarian, and blacksmith all decided on using the glue-on shoes to protect the walls of Red Bullet's feet, which have given him problems in the past.

"The walls of his feet are a bit thin and we felt if we didn't have to put nails in his feet it would help them grow out and really benefit him down the road," Orseno explained. "He's run in them in the past. In fact, I believe he won the Preakness wearing glue-on shoes. But that was on a different racetrack and different surface, so you can't really compare the two.

"I worked him last week with the glue-on shoes and he went great, but circumstances can be a lot different in a race than they are for a workout. I said going into the Gulfstream Park Handicap that he was training as well as he had before the Preakness and I didn't say it to throw up a smoke screen. I said it because I meant it."

Orseno was also disappointed but not disheartened by the effort of Thunder Breeze in the race immediately after the Gulfstream Park Handicap. Thunder Breeze, winner of the Grade 3 Flamingo and fourth in the Kentucky Derby at 3, finished third as the odds-on favorite against second-level allowance competition in his 2002 debut.

"He got a little worked up and hot in the holding barn and paddock and exerted a lot of nervous energy before the race," said Orseno. "He may also have been laying a little too close to the pace. He doesn't usually finish as well when he's too close early. Naturally I would have liked to have seen him win but it was a good first race back. He'll also go to New York next week with Red Bullet and Macho [Uno] and perhaps we'll give him another allowance race before stepping back into stakes company. All and all I still think we're going to have a big year with all three of them."

Velez wins when it matters most

Jockey Roger Velez has certainly made the most of his wins here this meet. Velez, who put in a stellar performance to guide Hal's Hope to a half-length upset victory over Mongoose in the Gulfstream Park Handicap, has won five races since the beginning of the meet on Jan. 4, but three of those have been in graded stakes. Along with Saturday's victory in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Handicap, Velez won the Grade 3 Skip Away Handicap with Hal's Hope and the Grade 2 Appleton Handicap aboard Pisces.

* Assistant starter Herbert Hamm escaped serious injury when he was kicked in the head and knocked unconscious before the running of Saturday's second race. Hamm, a former rider, was rushed to Memorial Hospital in Hollywood where a CAT scan and other tests proved negative. He was treated for head trauma and had his ear stitched up before being released later that evening.

* The prospective starting lineup for Saturday's $250,000 Aventura Stakes continues to grow. Heading the field will be Equality, winner of the Tampa Bay Downs Derby in his last start. He is expected to be joined by Charioteer, a tiring fourth after setting the pace to midstretch in the Louisiana Derby, Marasca, Mountain Forum, Strive, and perhaps recent turf winner Legislator. The Aventura is for 3-year-olds and will be decided at 1 1/16 miles.

* Former assistant trainer and exercise rider Robin Cleary, paralyzed in a training accident in 1996, has continued her one-woman fund-raising efforts for the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. Cleary, who had already raised nearly $300,000 for the Project over the past four years, was presented a check by Gulfstream Park president and general manager Scott Savin in winner's circle ceremonies on Saturday that brought her 2002 contributions to over $80,000. Joining Cleary in Saturday's ceremonies was Marc Buoniconti, ambassador and founder of the Miami Project. Cleary will continue her fund-raising efforts over the next several months with her goal to top last year's total of $160,000.