02/03/2016 2:56PM

Valid taking Grade 1 shot in Donn

Barbara D. Livingston
A multiple graded stakes winner, Valid will try to add a Grade 1 stakes to his resume in the Donn.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – The lineup for Saturday’s Grade 1 Donn Handicap has pretty much been a foregone conclusion for the past week. The only real question was where trainer Marcus Vitali would run the multiple graded stakes winner Valid, whom he’d also nominated to Saturday’s Grade 3 Fred Hooper, a race he won here a year ago.

Vitali waited until shortly after noon Eastern on Wednesday, just hours before entries were drawn, before finally choosing the 1 1/8-mile Donn over the one-mile Fred Hooper for a variety of reasons – not the least of which is that he firmly believes Valid has a legitimate chance to win the race.

“To me, this looks like a pretty good opportunity for our horse to finally become a Grade 1 winner,” said Vitali. “And you can’t say he hasn’t earned that opportunity. I also think he’s actually better going a mile and one-eighth than he is a mile. At least that’s what the numbers say, if I’m doing my math right, and I think I am.”

The Donn will be Valid’s second chance to win a Grade 1 race. His first came in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in October at Keeneland, where he finished fifth behind the winner, Liam’s Map. Valid is coming off a neck setback at the hands of Mshawish here in the Grade 3 Hal’s Hope in his 2016 debut. Mshawish also is back for the Donn.

“I think Mshawish may be the horse to beat in the Donn, and he just beat us by a neck last month, so why wouldn’t we want to try this race?” said Vitali. “And the only other real speed in the field is Financial Modeling, who is coming off a win in a $100,000 stakes.”

Javier Castellano was Vitali’s first choice to ride Valid in the Donn. Castellano won the Harlan’s Holiday Stakes when paired with Valid for the first time in December. But with Castellano already committed to Mshawish, Vitali will turn to Nik Juarez, who rode Valid to victory last summer at Monmouth Park in the Grade 3 Iselin.

The last-minute addition of Valid, who will carry 117 pounds, swelled the Donn field to eight, with Keen Ice the highweight under 121 pounds. The remainder of the field is: Itsaknockout (118), Mshawish (117), Madefromlucky (116), Financial Modeling (115), Mexikoma (115), and Closing Bell (114).

◗ A field of eight also will contest the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap on Saturday, topped by 122 pound highweight The Pizza Man. He’ll be heavily favored against Lukes Alley (117), All Included (116), Legendary (116), Shining Copper (116), Takeover Target (116), Triple Threat (116), and Eh Cumpari (114).

The Pizza Man was scheduled to arrive here Thursday afternoon.

◗ Eight also was the magic number when entries closed for the Hooper, with Saraguero a last-minute addition to a lineup that also includes Ami’s Flatter, Grande Shores, Just Call Kenny, Morning Calm, Wildcat Red, and the Todd Pletcher pair of Tommy Macho and Stanford.

◗ Saturday’s 13-race program, which begins at 12:05 p.m. Eastern, features three additional stakes, all on the grass: the Suwannee River, the Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint, and the Ladies Turf Sprint.

Jack Armstead More than 1 year ago
I have a friend who absolutely loves the "Pizza Man." I know he'll show up to bet him. He is one horse that I never have given him enough respect/credit and he's made me pay for it. I still think the same and now that he's a year older, I won't be betting on him unless he looks super. I will have to figure out a defensive position in multi-race wagers and couldn't live with myself if I let him beat me again.
Jack Armstead More than 1 year ago
Valid is as honest as they come. He tries in every race and may just "get better" as he gets older. He has taken my money in the past (right horses... wrong order) and; he likes Gulfstream Park. He's never been out of the money there.
J Timothy Lancaster More than 1 year ago
I'm all in on Keen Ice. Romans is excellent
Jack Armstead More than 1 year ago
If Gulfstream is playing as fast as it was last week, I'd be careful about using a one-run closer like Keen Ice. I think Romans would be happy with a 3rd in this race and is using this as a "paid-workout" performance for future NY Stakes during the year. Keen Ice runs best on a surface like Saratoga that is a "tiring, two-turn track." He will be sipping from the Saratoga Springs well in the Whitney for certain.
Professor Molesap More than 1 year ago
HG Donn Well it worked last time with me giving my entry early, so I will try it again. Field seems a tad short for a G1 race, but I know a few of our top horses are in Dubai. While Valid was on the fence about going here, I think they have committed. He might be the only speed and I am not sure Financial Modeling will go to the front again. On his best day, Valid can be very tough. He seems to be in form and has a great records at GP (12-6-3-1) and his record at the distance is 4-1-2-1. In race full of contention, I think Valid may be able to control the pace and hang on for the win. Most have run at least a couple of races that vie for top honors here, so I will try to find the one I think will peak today. I have never been a big Madefromlucky fan, but he is a G2 winner and almost beat my top choice last out after losing he whip. Still seems a tad slower than the majority and not confident he can repeat that effort. Closing Bell could not win on the turf in Southern California. While he has been racing long on the turf most of his relatively short career, he did win the only time he raced on dirt. Still, he does not appear to be fast enough for these. Mshawish just beat my top selection on the square, but I get the feeling his better distances are less than 1 1/8 miles. I think last time he was getting a bit tired and that is why he drifted. Obvious contended, but think he might regress. Mexikoma looked strong winning a recent HG, but that was against much lesser. He could not handle some these a few back and not sure if he really is better now. If he repeats that last race, he has a huge shot, but I cannot back him as I think he has peaked. Keen Ice is one that I have often completely ignored much to my detriment. He is on the very short list of those who finished in front of American Pharoah, but that was a perfect setup. I am tossing him again without much of a good reason, but I will say his couple have been mostly fast, but I do not think Romans can get him ready to go this distance off that layoff – however, I do promise to take more careful note of him throughout the year, but he is a toss for me. I thought about using Financial Modeling as he seemed to have reached a nice peak as that last race was huge. However, it was a big step up in terms of speed figures and the concern is that he will regress. Tough to argue with dirt and distance record, plus he will likely be sitting in a good spot on the turn. Though about it, but went this way. I have always been a huge Itsaknockout fan and was happy to see him return to run well. Went through the ringer last year in Florida as that track was deep and then really had no shot in the Derby after checking early. Was put on the shelf and returned to win a decent optional claimer and looked good doing it. Obviously needed the race and certainly seems to have matured. I suspect he will be sitting in the first flight and could spring the upset. $50 Exacta Box 4-7 = $100 Good luck all, Molesap