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Where fleet 3-year-olds meet
HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Although there will be appearances by the 2001 Kentucky Derby winner and the 2000 Preakness winner in the first five weeks, the 63rd Gulfstream Park meeting - as always - is about the 3-year-olds.
The 90-day meet begins on Thursday with an 11-race card led by the $100,000 Spectacular Bid Stakes for 3-year-olds at six furlongs. The series of 3-year-old races includes the 1 1/16-mile Holy Bull Stakes (Jan. 19), the seven-furlong Hutcheson Stakes (Feb. 2), the 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth (Feb. 16), and the 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby (March 16).
Last year, Monarchos parlayed three victories over Gulfstream's dirt track - including a win in the Grade 1 Florida Derby - into Kentucky Derby glory. He became the 19th Kentucky Derby winner to come out of the Florida Derby in the race's 50-year history. Monarchos is expected to run in the Donn Handicap here on Feb. 9.
In 2000, Red Bullet won a preliminary allowance race at Gulfstream en route to victory in the Preakness. He is expected to run in the Skip Away Handicap here on Jan. 12 and then in the Donn.
While California-based Siphonic is regarded as North America's top 3-year-old, there are a number of talented 3-year-olds based at Gulfstream this winter.
Trainer Ken McPeek has two of them, Repent and Harlan's Holiday.
Repent, a son of Louis Quatorze, finished second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile behind Johannesburg and returned to win the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs. McPeek plans to run him twice before the Kentucky Derby, with one start being the Blue Grass at Keeneland on April 13. McPeek said he would start Repent in late February or March, but has not picked a spot.
"I'm not opposed to running in the Tampa Bay Derby to get his first race under his belt," McPeek said, referring to a 1 1/16-mile race run on March 17 at Tampa Bay Downs. "Admittedly, the Florida Derby is going to be awfully tempting if he's doing really, really well."
Harlan's Holiday, a son of Harlan, won the Cradle Stakes and the Iroquois. McPeek said Harlan's Holiday is three weeks ahead of Repent in his training and could appear in the Holy Bull.
Saarland, a son of 1990 Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled, bounced back from an eighth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile to win the Remsen on Nov. 24. On Monday, he had his first breeze since that race and is being pointed to the Fountain of Youth, according to trainer Shug McGaughey.
Invisible Ink, last year's Derby runner-up, prepped in Florida for trainer Todd Pletcher. At this point, Pletcher's two top 2002 Derby contenders are Nokoma, the Remsen runner-up, and Charioteer, a blowout maiden winner at six furlongs at Aqueduct. Both horses have all their allowance conditions, though Nokoma, a son of 1997 Fountain of Youth winner and Florida Derby runner-up Pulpit, is likely to run in the Holy Bull, Pletcher said.
Nick Zito has started at least one horse in the Florida Derby the last eight years. He has a bevy of 3-year-olds with potential in his Gulfstream barn. He dubbed Father Steve, a son of Pulpit, as his most talented colt. Father Steve bucked shins after winning his maiden at Belmont in October.
Zito also has Silent Fred, third in the Remsen; Crimson Hero, fourth in the Lane's End Breeders' Futurity; High Star; and Governor Hickel. All figure to run through at least one allowance condition before attempting stakes.
"The horses are all being prepared gently," Zito said. "I hope to have something in the spring. Every horse I got here, every one, is going to run. I'd say we're a good bet to have a horse for the Florida Derby."
Bill Mott won more 2-year-old races than any trainer in New York in 2001, but it is too early to say which of his 3-year-olds are Derby prospects. Spinning Tales, a son of Spinning World, looked good winning his maiden at a mile on dirt. Lightening Dehere, a son of 1994 Fountain of Youth winner Dehere, is coming back from injury, but it is unclear when he'll be ready to go.
Changeintheweather, the Grey Stakes winner in Canada, is being pointed to the Holy Bull, trainer David Bell said.
Here is a look at how the other divisions shape up for this year's Gulfstream meet:
Trainer Carl Nafzger has a trio of fillies, led by unbeaten Belterra, who won the Golden Rod Stakes by 4 1/2 lengths in November. She is being pointed to the $200,000 Bonnie Miss on March 15.
Nafzger will send out Take the Cake, an undefeated daughter of Fly So Free, in Sunday's Old Hat Stakes. There she will meet Forest Heiress, a multiple-stakes-winning sprinter. Cordoba is another 3-year-old filly Nafzger is high on.
After a vigorous juvenile campaign that ended with victories in the Tempted and Demoiselle, Smok'n Frolic is enjoying a lengthy freshening. She may run once before the Bonnie Miss, with the most logical spot being the Davona Dale Feb. 24.
Take Charge Lady, the Alcibiades winner, is likely being pointed to the Bonnie Miss.
McGaughey has a bunch of talented 3-year-old fillies, including On Parade, Proxy Statement, and Alechemilla.
Gone Musical is a New York-bred daughter of Gone West who was very impressive winning her maiden at first asking for trainer John Kimmel.
Older fillies and mares
McGaughey is strong in this category with Cat Cay and Atelier. Cat Cay, who won the Top Flight Handicap, will likely be pointed to the Grade 3 Shirley Jones on Feb. 15. Atelier, third in the Top Flight, will be pointed to the $200,000 Rampart Handicap on March 2, McGaughey said.
Forest Secrets, who won the Grade 1 Acorn and Grade 3 Falls City Handicap, could run in the $100,000 Sabin Handicap on Feb. 8. Miss Linda, the Spinster winner, and Pompeii, the Personal Ensign winner, have recently begun training at Payson Park and could show up in the Rampart as well.
Trainer Mark Hennig has a talented group of older fillies. Raging Fever is pointing to the First Lady Handicap on Jan. 18. Summer Colony, the Ladies Handicap winner, could be pointed to the Rampart. Hennig said Mystic Lady is on vacation, and he has not made plans for Gold Mover, the Chaposa Springs runner-up.
Mott says he is not as strong in this division as in years past, but he figures to be well represented in stakes by Hap, Del Mar Show, Spindrift, and In Frank's Honor.
Trainer Christophe Clement will counter with the likes of Revved Up, Absaroka, and Broadway Snowman. Clement said Forbidden Apple, the Kelso winner, will probably not run at Gulfstream.
Whata Brainstorm, last year's Pan American winner, is back in training after having surgery to repair a chipped sesamoid in a hind leg. Trainer Jimmy Picou is pointing him to this year's Pan American on March 23.
Profit Option, the upset winner of the McKnight Handicap, Mr. Pleasentfar, and Buff are others to keep an eye on this division.
Galic Boy, who is 2 for 2 over Gulfstream's turf course, heads the list of probables for Saturday's Appleton Handicap.
Clement is strong in this division, with Veil of Avalon, who heads Saturday's Honey Fox Handicap, and Penny's Gold, who will run later in the meet. Clement said that neither Voodoo Dancer nor England's Legend is likely to run at Gulfstream.
Other Clement turf females include Summer Solstice, Step With Style, and Zeiting.
Krisada, winner of the La Prevoyante, will probably run in The Very One Handicap on Feb. 17 and maybe the Orchid on March 24 before being sent to the breeding shed, according to McGaughey.
Istintaj, who won both the Mr. Prospector and Deputy Minister handicaps here last winter, is back for more and is expected to start in the Mr. Prospector on Jan. 13.
Left Bank, the Cigar Mile winner, is being pointed to the Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship on March 9. Hook and Ladder, last year's Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship winner, is expected to run in the Mr. Prospector.
- additional reporting by Mike Welsch