01/05/2011 3:59PM

Three-year-olds take center stage at Gulfstream

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Three-year-olds are always the focus of attention during the Gulfstream Park winter season, and the first major action in the division will come in Friday’s eighth, a one-mile, entry-level allowance test that drew a field of 10.

Anyone handicapping the race on breeding alone will have to begin with Shadow Warrior, a son of A.P. Indy out of the Seeking the Gold mare Victory Ride who was a Grade 1 winner herself during an abbreviated but nearly perfect racing career. Shadow Warrior made just two starts at 2, finishing a troubled fourth over the Polytrack at Keeneland on Oct. 21 before earning his diploma with an improved three-length triumph going a mile at Churchill Downs four weeks later.

“He ran well in his first race and better in the second,” said Rusty Arnold, who trains the homebred for G. Watts Humphrey Jr. “He probably wants a little more ground, and Friday’s race will be a big step up for him meeting winners for the first time. Pedigree wise, he’s obviously our top prospect, and Friday is going to tell us a lot.”

Friday’s main event is likely to produce a candidate or two for the Grade 3 Holy Bull on Jan. 29, but Arnold was reluctant to make any commitments just yet.

“Let’s see how he does here first, and then we’ll start thinking about what will come next,” Arnold said.

Shadow Warrior is one of seven horses in the race coming off maiden wins, along with Black N Beauty, Madness n’ Mayhem, Wildcat Formation, Fightinforfreedom, Dr. Tom G., and Voce Del Leone.

Printing Press is the only stakes-placed member of the field, with the son of Tapit finishing third after contesting the pace in Monmouth Park’s one-mile Seton Hall University Stakes and third in the restricted NATC Futurity four weeks earlier.

The top last-race Beyer Speed Figures in the field belongs to Back N Beauty, who earned an 82 off his 2 3/4-length maiden win at Churchill on Nov. 12, although he’s yet to run beyond 6 1/2 furlongs. El Grayling received an 81 Beyer after finishing a sharp second behind Brethren, Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver’s undefeated half-brother, when switched to the main track for the first time off a steady diet of turf races to open his career.

Trainer Nick Zito always has to be reckoned with in early season 3-year-old races, and his Dr. Tom G. already owns a win at the distance after earning his diploma going a mile over the Belmont turf course in his 2-year-old finale.