02/11/2013 10:14AM

Trip Notes: Donn Handicap, Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap, San Marcos, and more

Barbara D. Livingston

Race: Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park

Winner: Graydar (109 Beyer)

Jockey: Edgar Prado

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Fast Fact: Graydar has posted triple-digit Beyers in three of his first four races.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (race 8)

The much-anticipated battle between Point of Entry and Animal Kingdom was worth the wait, but it was Point of Entry who struck the blow with a dazzling display. Freshened since his strong second in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf, Point of Entry broke alertly and opted to sit second behind pacesetter Balto. He bided his time while staying in the clear, didn’t panic when Animal Kingdom rushed up along the inside to challenge for the lead going to the far turn, moved up to make it a three-way battle on the turn while widest, battled with Animal Kingdom into the lane, got the better of that foe, and was drawing away late. The Group 1 Sheema Classic on turf in Dubai on March 30 could be next, and he’ll be tough no matter what big Euro or other international raiders show. Animal Kingdom was making his first start since his super Breeders’ Cup try when rallying strongly to be second to Horse of the Year Wise Dan in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Mile. The 2011 Kentucky Derby winner bided his time early, moved up eagerly along the rail to challenge Balto for the lead going to the far turn, battled with the winner from there to deep stretch, but couldn’t quite stay with Point of Entry late. This sets him up well to move to the synthetic track in Dubai for a crack at the Group 1 Dubai World Cup on March 30. This also was expected to be his last race in the United States as after Dubai he may run in Europe and then is scheduled to go to Australia to stand stud this summer. Either way, the American turf division is as strong as it’s been in recent memory. Unbridled Command showed he’s by no means out his element in these deepest waters as he sat back and finished with good energy to end up not far behind the two big boys. He also may be headed to Australia to continue his career.

Gulfstream Park Sprint (race 9)

Fort Loudon proved this (sprinting) is the game he prefers as he returned to this trip and got back to his best form. He was a well-beaten third (13 1/4 lengths) to Ron the Greek routing in the Sunshine Millions Classic here Jan. 19, but thoroughly enjoyed getting back to a sprint and not facing anyone like Ron the Greek here. He stalked the early pace of Big Grandpa and Bahamian Squall, moved closer into the lane, got the better of Bahamian Squall, and fended off a hard-trying Swagger Jack. He seems to belong with the best one-turn horses around, and he likely will go in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Handicap, a one-turn mile race here March 9, according to trainer Nick Zito. Swagger Jack, stepping up in quest of his third straight win and moving from a mile to a sprint, showed he’s the real deal as he bided his time, moved up just behind Fort Loudon into the lane, doggedly kept after that foe, but just couldn’t quite get to him. Bahamian Squall, the favorite off a string of strong races, dueled early with Big Grandpa, dispatched with that foe, but couldn’t quite finish with the top two. Close It Out continued his decent form as he, as usual, lagged back and finished well, though he was no threat. Still, it seems he almost always finds one or two just a bit too tough at this level.

Suwannee River (race 10)

More proof that you’re asking for trouble when you let a good horse dictate tempo. Channel Lady broke alertly and went right to the lead. She was able to set dawdling splits to the far turn, which left her with just enough gas in the tank to fend off a phalanx of closers. She may not be ready for the top end of the division, but she can certainly do some damage in the right spots. She will likely next go in the Grade 3 Honey Fox here March 16. Abaco, stepping up in class to try a stakes for the first time while in quest of a fifth straight win, was slow into stride, as is her custom. She bided her time, moved closer down the backside, came with a smart run between horses into the lane, but just couldn’t quite get to the game winner. Inglorious was very unlucky. She broke alertly from her rail spot, but got shuffled back and was then last on the going to the backstretch. This left her with far too much to do as she was behind everyone while the leader crawled early, and then when she made her big move on the far turn, she had no option but to go very wide as the field was bunched in front of her. To her credit while she stayed wide, she gallantly sustained her run to the wire, but just couldn’t quite get to the winner and got nipped for the place. Kya One also was quite unlucky. She sat a couple lengths off the pace, had to steady in traffic a couple times down the backside, remained in traffic on the turn, finally found room into the lane, and ran on doggedly in a good try. You get the feeling that if you ran this race 10 times, you’d get six different winners.

Donn Handicap (race 11)

Graydar had always hinted at big-time ability and may be ready to deliver on the promise as he put up a terrific performance. He outbroke fellow speedster, Californian Ultimate Eagle and grabbed the lead. He took pressure first from Ultimate Eagle, who quickly fell away, was challenged on the turn and again into the lane, but kept on finding more and kicked away late to win fairly comfortably. Based on this, all the big distance events should be on his radar. That being said, all three wins have come on this track – the only time he raced elsewhere (at Belmont Park last September) he was a non-threatening third, so he’ll have to prove he’s not just a Gulfstream Park specialist. Bourbon Courage bided his time early, made a strong midrace move alongside Flat Out going to the far turn, moved out for room, kept after Graydar, looked dangerous in midstretch, but couldn’t get to the winner. Take Charge Indy stalked the pace, doggedly kept after the winner, but could never get on terms. Flat Out loomed ominously with a strong move to reach contention going to the far turn, but just as suddenly came under a ride and was no factor in the lane. He’s simply not as good away from New York. Pool Play lagged back and never really got involved. Ultimate Eagle broke poorly, rushed up but couldn’t grab the lead from Graydar, tried to then press that foe, but suddenly retreated going to the far turn. He was pulled up and vanned off, so something apparently went awry.

Santa Anita
San Marcos (race 9)

Slim Shadey won this race last year but had seen some hard times in recent months. The 5-year-old gelding used his speed, however, to bounce back to top form and successfully defend his title. Slim Shadey went right out to the early lead, was able to clear off by as much as three lengths despite setting modest splits, leaving more than enough in the tank to keep the closers at bay. He’ll reportedly get a break now and shoot for the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve on the Kentucky Derby undercard May 4 at Churchill Downs. If all goes well there, a long-term goal would be the Grade 1 Arlington Million on Aug. 17. This also gave recently out-of-retirement rider Gary Stevens his first stakes win since, coincidentally, winning this race in 2005. Interaction, the favorite off a good second in the Grade 2 Hollywood Turf Cup, was well back early, steadily made progress, doggedly went after the winner in the lane, closed the gap, but couldn’t get to him. The Grade 2 San Luis Obispo on March 16 is reportedly next. All Squared Away sat midpack, came with a threatening run turning for home, but couldn’t sustain it. Juniper Pass lagged back and never really mustered a run. Richard’s Kid, trying turf in the hopes of getting back to top form, was crowded early to be well back and never got involved. Could be all the miles this tough veteran has logged have taken their toll.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Hurricane Bertie (race 10)

Golden Mystery continued her ascent. After sharp seconds in the Sugar Swirl and Ocala here, she blasted foes (including some of these) in the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint last month. Well, she showed that was no fluke as the 7-year-old dominated a nice bunch again and may be ready for even deeper waters. She used her speed to stalk the pace of R Holiday Mood while between horses, surged to the lead into the lane while still under a hand ride, and drew off to win easily. The Grade 2 Inside Information at 7 furlongs here March 17 could be next, though she was slated to be sold at auction on Feb. 11. Fantasy of Flight was just behind the winner from the start, tried to move with that rival turning for home, was no match for that gal, but finished nicely to be a clear second. Nakano sat last early, remained there to the far turn, swung wide into the lane, and finished well, though she was never really a threat. Emma’s Encore, winner of the Grade 1 Prioress at Belmont last summer and second to Golden Mystery in the Sunshine Millions, was slow into stride and could make only modest headway. R Holiday Mood, winner of this last year and looking to improve off a third in the Sunshine Millions, her first start in 10 months, set the pace under constant pressure, battled back when hooked on the turn, but then gave way. Applauding, previously unbeaten and untested in three starts, may have found her ceiling as she was a bit slow into stride, never got involved and faded to last.