01/18/2011 12:24PM

Rogue Victory back quick for optional claimer at Gulfstream

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Rogue Victory already won a third-level optional claiming race last summer at Saratoga. With a little luck, he probably could have won another opening week at Gulfstream Park when having to settle for second money following a slow start.

Trainer George Weaver will wheel his hard-knocking grass specialist back on short rest under similar optional claiming conditions in Thursday’s $57,000 main event. A very competitive field of nine, plus one main-track-only horse, was entered to go a mile on the grass.

Rogue Victory broke slow and then rallied from last after six furlongs to finish second, beaten a length by Sleepless Knight, in his 2011 debut just 12 days earlier. Rogue Victory, 6, has always been fond of the Gulfstream surface, having won three of his first five trips over the course prior to his near miss earlier this month.

“We had wanted him to be a little closer to the pace last time, but he was a little fresh and rambunctious off the layoff and hopped at the start,” Weaver said. “But then he got with the race flow and was right next to the winner, so I don’t think he had any real excuse. Whenever you bring a horse back on short rest, you second guess yourself a little, but it seems like he’s in good enough form coming out of his last start, so we’ll give it a try.”

Rogue Victory’s turn around in 12 days pales in comparison to Sr. Henry, who comes right back after finishing a troubled third against softer optional claiming company here just last weekend. Sr. Henry, who finished second, beaten two lengths by Rogue Victory under similar conditions last summer at Saratoga, steadied a couple of times in traffic before rallying belatedly once clear Saturday. Sr. Henry won a third-level allowance race last winter at Gulfstream.

Bangalore Gold is winless in two starts since coming to the United States last fall but proved competitive against both high-priced optional claiming and minor stakes company in New York. Trained by Christophe Clement, Bangalore Gold owns the highest last-race Beyer Speed Figure – a 91 – of any member of this field.

Reb is the biggest question mark in the lineup, making his first start since finishing eighth in Arlington Park’s Grade 1 Secretariat in August 2009. Reb had won the Grade 2 American Derby four weeks earlier.