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Offlee Wild burns in Fountain work
HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - If nothing else, Offlee Wild proved on Wednesday morning that he can work awfully fast.
In his final tune-up for Saturday's $200,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes, Offlee Wild turned in a torrid five-furlong work. Gulfstream Park's official clockers caught him in 57.40 seconds, while Daily Racing Form timed him in 58.
Regardless, it was a fast work, the best of 34 at the distance and a full second faster than the next-quickest work. It was one of just two five-furlong works that were faster than one minute.
Clyde Martin, a jockey whom trainer T.V. Smith often employs for key workouts, was aboard.
"Clyde, I think that did the trick," Smith said to Martin after the work.
"I asked him to run down the stretch, which is good. He needed it," Smith added later. "Clyde said it took forever to get him pulled up. He wants to keep going."
Smith was hoping to repeat the same training schedule and result from the last time Offlee Wild raced. Four days prior to his 27-1 upset victory in last month's Holy Bull Stakes, Offlee Wild had the best five-furlong work of the day, 59 seconds.
"I gave him that kind of blowout before the Holy Bull," Smith said. "As far as being ready, he's as good as I can get him. He's happy and strong and wanting to do it."
Mark Guidry has the mount on Offlee Wild in the Fountain of Youth.
Midway Cat on an upswing
Midway Cat turned in the best performance of his career when blinkers and Lasix were added before his last start, a victory against allowance company on Jan. 18. But his trainer, Rick Hiles, believes there is a third, and more important, reason why Midway Cat is improving.
"He's mentally matured," Hiles said Wednesday morning. "He wasn't paying a lot of attention in his earlier races. That's one of the reasons we added blinkers. In his last race at Churchill Downs," said Hiles, referring to a runner-up finish on Nov. 24, "he made the lead, pulled himself up, then came back and chased the horse who passed him."
Midway Cat has won twice in seven starts. The Fountain of Youth will be his first stakes start since he finished fourth in the Cradle Stakes at River Downs on Sept. 2.
"The race is coming up pretty tough," Hiles said. "I'm hoping there's enough speed to go with Trust N Luck and soften him up."
Slow, easy work for Storm Flag Flying
Storm Flag Flying, the overwhelming choice as champion 2-year-old filly in 2002, worked for the first time at Gulfstream on Wednesday morning, going an easy half-mile in 50.60 under exercise rider Cecil Putnam.
Storm Flag Flying, who has not started since she capped off her undefeated 2-year-old campaign with a gutsy victory in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, shipped here last Wednesday from Payson Park, where she had been given several slow breezes in January.
"She was just going along easily," said trainer Shug McGaughey after Storm Flag Flying had cooled out following her work. "I told the rider to go three-eighths in 38 or 39 and then let her gallop out just to get a feel for the track. She seemed to handle it okay, although the girl said she was sort of looking at the shadows a little bit not knowing what they were."
McGaughey said he would probably bring Storm Flag Flying back to work again early next week.
"I'll let her tell me when and how fast to work," said McGaughey. "I might bring her back and let her go a half in 50 and gallop out five eighths. I'm in no rush. It's only February 12. Right now everything is on schedule and when she's ready we'll run her."
McGaughey said if all went well Storm Flag Flying would make her first start in the seven-furlong Forward Gal Stakes here on March 14.
Senor Swinger awaits Florida or La. Derby
Another undefeated 3-year-old, Senor Swinger, breezed a half-mile in 49.40 under exercise rider Derek Sturniolo shortly before the start of the second renovation break. It was his first serious work since he finished in a dead heat with Ten Cents a Shine in his 3-year-old debut in a first-level allowance on Jan. 31.
"I told the rider to take it nice and easy since this was his first work back since the race," said trainer Mickey Goldfine. "And he did everything right."
Goldfine decided to pass Saturday's Grade 1 Fountain of Youth with Senor Swinger and await either the $1 million Florida Derby or the $750,000 Louisiana Derby for his colt's next start.
"He could have run but I just didn't think it was the right thing to do to bring him back that quickly off what was a pretty tough race," said Goldfine. "Some horses need to run more but this one doesn't. He was a little green in his last start, but all in all he handled it well and learned a lot. I might not be running in the Fountain of Youth but you can bet I'll be here Saturday watching the race with a lot of interest."
Goldfine also said any talk of a sale for Senor Swinger is over.
"We were close to a deal with one party, but when that fell through we just decided to drop any idea of selling him," said Goldfine.
Senor Swinger is owned by Robert Ackerman and Barry Golden.
Bham nearly ready to resume training
Trainer Todd Pletcher reported Wednesday that Bham should be able to return to training in about three to five days. Bham, who finished third after setting the pace in the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes, was pointing for the Fountain of Youth, only to be sidetracked when he spiked a fever last week.
"I'm not sure what will be next for Bham at this point," said Pletcher. "It's hard to get right back on track when you lose a couple of weeks training like we have."
- Ivanavinalot, a game second behind Atlantic Ocean in her 3-year-old debut in the Sunshine Millions Oaks on Jan. 25, worked six furlongs in 1:13.80 at Calder on Wednesday. Trainer Kathleen O'Connell said Ivanavinalot will likely make her next start in the Grade 2 Davona Dale Stakes on Feb. 23.
- Cetewayo breezed a half-mile in 51.80 around the dogs here Wednesday in preparation for a defense of his title in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Handicap Sunday. Cetewayo, now 9, upset Band Is Passing to win the 2002 Gulfstream BC under 115 pounds. He will carry 117 pounds, two fewer than starting highweight Man From Wicklow, on Sunday.
- The Allen Jerkens-trained pair of Saint Verre and Puzzlement, both probable starters for the Grade 1 Donn Handicap, both worked Wednesday. Saint Verre went a half-mile in 48.20 and Puzzlement breezed five-eighths in 1:03.
- additional reporting by Mike Welsch