03/26/2015 2:20PM

Skip Away right spot right now for Commissioner

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Barbara D. Livingston
Commissioner, training in Florida last Sunday, is the likely favorite in the Grade 3 Skip Away on Saturday.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – If all had gone according to plan, Commissioner might have been competing nearly 8,000 miles away and for more than 60 times the purse money Saturday in the $10 million Dubai World Cup rather than in the $150,000 Skip Away at Gulfstream Park.

But after Commissioner finished sixth, nearly 11 lengths behind winner Constitution, in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap, his itinerary became a bit more conservative, leaving him as the likely favorite to defeat five rivals in the Grade 3, 1 3/16-mile Skip Away.

Later Saturday, the ultra-consistent Valid turns back to seven furlongs for the first time in nearly a year as the likely favorite in the $100,000 Sir Shackleton.

The Skip Away will be the third start this season for Commissioner, the runner-up in the 2014 Belmont Stakes, who remains winless since capturing an entry-level allowance race in his 3-year-old debut here nearly 15 months ago.

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“I think he’ll appreciate the mile and three-sixteenths,” said trainer Todd Pletcher. “The key is to get him into his rhythm and utilize his high cruising speed. I really can’t make any excuses for his last race. He was side-by-side with Constitution going to the three-eighths pole, and then Constitution started running from there, and he did not.”

If Commissioner proves vulnerable again, it could be Encryption who’ll prove the major beneficiary. Encryption is coming off an eight-length allowance victory here Feb. 22, for which he earned a career-best 104 Beyer Speed Figure.

“He’s training awfully well, and we’ve gotten him to settle down and maintain a nice cruising speed in his works, so I think he’ll get a mile and three-sixteenths,” said trainer Kelly Breen.

Sr. Quisqueyano returns home and receives some class relief after prompting the early pace and finishing ninth in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap. Claimed for $62,500 in his 2014 finale, Sr. Quisqueyano returned quick dividends with his half-length decision over East Hall when launching his 2015 campaign in the Sunshine Millions Classic.

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Key contenders

Commissioner(Last 3 Beyers: 96-96-100)

◗ He reunites in the Skip Away with Javier Castellano, who guided him to second-place finishes in both the Belmont and Peter Pan.

◗ He’s won once in four starts over the local strip. “He’s kind of had conflicting efforts here, two good races and two substandard ones,” said Pletcher.

Encryption(Last 3 Beyers: 104-89-97)

◗ He’s won twice and has yet to finish off the board in five starts at Gulfstream Park. “He’s really blossomed between 3 and 4 and seems to really like it here at Gulfstream,” said Breen.

Sr. Quisqueyano (Last 3 Beyers: 91-102-93)

◗ He finished third in the 2014 Skip Away, beaten more than seven lengths by the Pletcher-trained Micromanage.

Sir Shackleton

Valid has posted triple-digit Beyers in his last five starts and nine of his last 10. He finished a solid third after contesting all the pace with Private Zone going a mile in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap earlier this month and captured the Grade 3 Fred Hooper over Grande Shores in his previous start.

Confrontation and the 7-year-old Pants On Fire loom as formidable foes. Confrontation finished fourth in the Hooper following a strong second-place effort behind Lea in the Grade 3 Hal’s Hope. Pants On Fire, third in the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, has won at least one stakes in each of his first five seasons of racing.