Updated on 09/16/2011 6:53AM

Wet or dry, Hap's the horse


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - This is the time of year that the so-called snowbirds from Canada flock to south Florida, ecstatic to escape their harsh winter climate for a week or two.

Understandably, their showcase track back home, Woodbine, is shuttered for Thoroughbred racing. In the meantime, Gulfstream capably fills the void. With the 36th running of the $150,000 here Saturday, Gulfstream once again pays tribute to the meet-long support shown by fans and horsemen from the Great White North.

The actual composition of this 1 1/16-mile turf race, however, has very little to do with Canadians. The solid favorite in a field of nine is Hap, a 6-year-old horse whose popularity with horseplayers has less to do with his distinctive-looking flaxen mane and tail than with his 10-for-17 turf record.

Bill Mott is the trainer of Hap, whose major triumphs include the Keeneland Turf Mile, Dixie Handicap, Fourstardave, and two runnings of the Bernard Baruch.

"Nice, nice horse," said jockey Jerry Bailey, who will ride Hap. "A mile and a sixteenth and 1 1/8 miles are his perfect distances. It seems like every time there's a big race, he either has to stretch out or turn back, but not Saturday."

With rain forecast for the weekend, Bailey is not worried about the possibility of a yielding or soft turf. "He ran a good race on that kind of surface in the Arlington Million [when second]," he said.

Hap is returning from a nearly four-month layoff, having finished fifth in the Breeders' Cup Turf in his 2001 finale. His main opposition appears to be North East Bound, the speedy gelding who began his 6-year-old campaign with narrow defeats in the Appleton and Ft. Lauderdale handicaps.

Pisces, winner of the Jan. 5 Appleton, is also a contender. The rest of the field consists of Galic Boy, One Eyed Joker, Capsized, Star Over the Bay, and TV Sports Director. Flying Avie also is entered but will run only if the race is transferred to the main track.

Hap will carry high weight of 123 pounds, seven to 12 more than the others.

The Canadian Turf, carded as the 11th of 12 races, is preceded by a key allowance race for possible classics contenders. Nokoma and Monthir are the probable favorites.

The Commodores will stage a live concert in the paddock grandstand area during the program.

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