01/27/2010 12:00AM

Valtrus must cope with lack of pace


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Valtrus, a well-traveled model of consistency since being claimed by trainer Bruce Brown during the final week of the Saratoga meeting, brings his road game back to Gulfstream Park, where he will be among the favorites to capture Wednesday's $53,000 allowance feature on the turf.


Brown plucked Valtrus, a son of Lemon Drop Kid, out of a $50,000 claiming event at Saratoga on Sept. 4 for owner Bruce Lunsford. Valtrus reaped quick dividends for them with a neck decision over optional claimers at Belmont Park five weeks later. In two subsequent starts to close out his 2009 campaign, Valtrus finished second against even tougher optional claiming opposition at Aqueduct and third in an overnight stakes at Turfway Park on Dec. 12.

Valtrus's performance at Aqueduct has been further flattered, as the two horses he split at the wire that day, Blues Street and Cliff Meadows, have returned to win turf races during the opening weeks of the Gulfstream meeting. And from a Beyer Speed Figure standpoint, nobody in Wednesday's field has been any more consistent than Valtrus, who posted Beyers of 90, 90, and 91 in his three tries for Brown.

"I had planned to give him a little more time off before bringing him back, but he shipped down so well and trained so good since getting here I decided to run him," said Brown. "He's obviously a very consistent horse, and he's also very tactical and capable of adapting to whatever pace situation that may develop."

Valtrus will likely have to adapt to the lack of pace in the 1 1/16-mile main event. That scenario should play into the hands of Fiorentino, who is looking to regain the form that saw him win a pair of races over the local course last winter as well as the Grade 2 Jefferson Cup at Churchill Downs on June 13.

Aside from the pace, another key to the race will be how Star Plus returns from a 14-month layoff for his new trainer, Angel Penna Jr. Star Plus, a Group 1 winner in his native Argentina early in his career, was Grade 3-placed for trainer Ken McPeek, but has not started since finishing fourth in the Grade 3 River City Handicap at Churchill Downs in November of 2008.

Completing the lineup are Auction Watch, a winner of 2 of his last 3 starts, Sr. Henry, Slambino, and Sam P.