02/17/2009 1:00AM

Wilkes may have another live one


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer Ian Wilkes already has one well-regarded Kentucky Derby candidate, Capt. Candyman Can, who will be among the choices in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes on Feb. 28. Wilkes should have a pretty good idea if he has got a second after his undefeated Warrior's Reward takes on a loaded field of entry-level allowance rivals in Thursday's featured eighth race at Gulfstream Park.

Warrior's Reward, a son of Medaglia d'Oro, flashed both courage and potential by rallying from well off the pace and then surviving a stretch-long duel while edging away to a one-length triumph going a mile launching his career here on Jan. 31.

"He's got to be pretty good to win first time out for me," quipped Wilkes who, like his mentor, Carl Nafzger, is not known for pressing his horses to the max in preparation for their debuts. "He hasn't left an oat and couldn't be any happier than he's been since his last start, and this race is going to tell us a lot. Obviously it's way too early to compare him with Candy Man. He's a lot further behind at this juncture, but I do think he'll love going longer, so the distance shouldn't be any issue on Thursday."

Wilkes will again have the services of jockey Calvin Borel for Warrior's Reward's second start. Borel made one of his infrequent visits to south Florida this winter to ride him to victory in his debut.

"Calvin was coming to ride Miss Isella in the Sabin on Friday, and he really wanted to ride the colt back, so the timing worked out well that the two races came on back-to-back days," said Wilkes.

Wilkes also reported that Capt. Candyman Can came out of his victory in the seven-furlong Hutcheson Stakes in good order. Capt. Candyman Can, who earned a career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 101 for that performance, breezed an easy five furlongs in 1:02 at Palm Meadows last Friday.

"I might bring him back and work him again on Thursday," said Wilkes. "He'll tell us when he's ready. He doesn't need a lot of training."

Wilkes certainly knows his way around the Derby trail, having been an integral part of Nafzger's team that got Street Sense to the winner circle's at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May of 2007.

"It's also difficult to try to compare Candy Man and Street Sense at this stage of the winter," said Wilkes. "Street Sense already had it all together by now and also had more than enough graded earnings to assure he'd get into the Derby. Candy Man still needs more education and probably some more money to get in. The main thing is to have some fun and try to enjoy the ride - just try to keep taking the right steps and making the right moves."

Older competitors look solid

Thursday's card is a good one. Supporting the 3-year-old allowance race, which highlights the program, are a pair of allowance events for older horses, the second race at six furlongs and the seventh carded at a mile on the turf.

In the second, stakes winner Keep Laughing will attempt to rebound from a disappointing 2009 debut against a field that also includes Freedom Bay, who makes his first start since earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 99 winning an entry-level allowance dash at Saratoga on Aug. 30.

In the seventh, two-time stakes winner and graded stakes-placed Why Tonto makes his first start since upsetting his more highly regarded stablemate Cowboy Cal here a year ago in the Hallandale Beach.

"Why Tonto had an ankle issue which sent him to the sidelines, but he's a very good horse who beat Cowboy Cal at 3, and obviously that form has held up really well," said trainer Todd Pletcher. "He's training as well as ever, although he could need a race before he comes back to his own."

Why Tonto's competition will include stakes winners Power Game and Dynhocracy.

Gemswick Park getting a breather

Trainer Tom Albertrani, who won a pair of turf stakes over the weekend with Duke of Homberg (the Hallandale Beach) and Gozzip Girl (the Coconut Grove), reported that his first stakes winner of the meet, Gemswick Park, has been sent home for a little rest. Gemswick Park, a homebred daughter of Speightstown owned by Melnyk Racing Stables, upset Elusive Heat and Frolic's Dream to win the Grade 3 Old Hat before finishing a disappointing and well-beaten fifth in the Grade 2 Forward Gal.

"Her last race was a mystery why she didn't fire," said Albertrani. "She hadn't had a break in a while, so I just decided to give her a little time."

Albertrani said he's also high on another 3-year-old filly in his barn, Morning Chatter, who registered a nine-length maiden win over Aqueduct's inner track on Jan. 4.

A daughter of Proud Citizen, Morning Chatter had finished third in the Grade 3 Tempted in her 2-year-old finale. Morning Chatter joined Albertrani's south Florida operation at Palm Meadows immediately following her maiden victory.

"I'm hoping to get her on the Oaks trail down here this winter," said Albertrani.

Juvenile races get cash boost

Horsemen based in south Florida year-round got some good news last week when it was announced that both the 2-year-old program in general and the Florida Stallion Stakes series in particular will get an influx of new money beginning with the opening of the 2009 Calder session on April 20.

The Florida Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners' Association, the Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, and Churchill Downs Inc. will contribute an additional $100,000 apiece to be distributed in a yet undetermined manner in next year's Stallion Stakes series at Calder. The agreement between the groups will also include broader support for Calder's juvenile program in the form of increased purses for 2-year-old maiden special weight races and first-level allowance races. Among the goals is to increase the minimum purses, including Florida Owners Awards funds, to between $35,000 and $40,000 for these categories in 2009 and to $50,000 by 2010.

"We appreciate the efforts of the breeders," said Sam Gordon, president of the horsemen's association. "It has been very productive working together with the FTBOA and Churchill Downs to help 2-year-old racing, which has always been the centerpiece at Calder."

Cape Royale wires at Ocala

Cape Royale led throughout to win the $150,000 Darley OBS Championship in Ocala on Monday, finishing 1 1/4 lengths in front of Sabi Sabi. Swinging Bernie was third. Cape Royale was ridden to victory by Cornelio Velasquez for trainer Bill White.

Other OBS stakes winners included Fitz Just Right ($100,000 OBS for 3-year-old fillies), Pray for Action ($75,000 OBS Sprint Stakes), R Brown Sugar ($50,000 OBS Sprint Stakes for 3-year-old fillies) and Dukes Flying Tiger ($50,000 Thoroughbred Charities Stakes).