02/16/2012 4:33PM

Tampa Bay: Gibson getting his biggest test in Turf Dash


OLDSMAR, Fla. – Gibson, undefeated in two Tampa Bay turf sprints, faces the stiffest turf test of his career Saturday when he faces nine turf rivals in the $75,000 Tampa Turf Dash at five furlongs on the grass.

Gibson has won 6 of 15 lifetime races and comes into the Turf Dash having won 3 of his last 4 starts. He was overlooked in the $125,000 Jack Duddley Sprint Handicap against statebreds at Calder last November when he wired a field of eight by more than six lengths at 34-1. Put on turf for the first time in his next start against optional claiming company at Tampa, he led throughout to win by 1 1/4 lengths.

In his next start he chased the red-hot Action Andy to the final furlong of the Pelican on the main track before fading to eighth. Gibson was put back on the turf in a prep for Saturday’s race and showed some grit in the stretch, coming back late after being headed in the stretch to score a nose victory.

Gerald Bennett, Gibson’s trainer, said he was pleased with the 4-year-old gelding’s half-mile work of 47.80 seconds last Saturday.

“He’s trained great here most of the winter,” Bennett said. “It looks like there are some heavy heads coming up from south Florida, so this will be quite a test for him. But he’s a game dude and he showed last time he’s got some heart, so we’ll just see what happens.

With a forecast of rain for the area on Friday and Saturday, Bennett was asked how he thought Gibson would handle an off track should the feature be taken off the turf.

“He’s trained all right over a wet track, so I think he’d be able to handle it Saturday should the track come up wet,” Bennett said.

Gibson will be facing several south Florida invaders, headed by Private Jet, an Argentine-bred now trained by Kiaran McLaughlin. Private Jet won 5 of 10 starts in South Africa, then came off a 16-month break to run down the leaders in the Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint to capture his U.S. debut at 9-1.

Great Attack finished a length behind Private Jet in the Gulfstream Turf Sprint, his first start since finishing fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.

Little Nick, third in that same race, won over the local turf course two races back and has 7 turf wins from 18 starts on grass.

Musical Flair came from off the pace to take an overnight stakes going five furlongs at Gulfstream in his last and was supplemented to the Dash for $2,000.

Big Band Sound came from last to overhaul a tough field in his 2012 debut at five furlongs on the turf, while Western Prospector was on the short end of the nose decision to Gibson last out.