Las Vegas, NV - The Grade 1 Donn Handicap comes our way from Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach. Florida this Saturday, February 7. A nice purse of $500,000 will be on the line for horses four years old and upward willing to go 1 1/8 miles on Gulfstream's dirt track.
A total of 10 older entries will take to the track in the Donn Handicap - race 13 on Gulfstream's packed Saturday card. Post time is 5:58 PM. Here is a brief look into the past performances of all 10 entries for this lucrative Grade 1 stakes.
Lea - Bill Mott trainee colt has 13 career starts and has hit the board in all except a fourth in the 2013 Forego Stakes and a fifth in the Grade 2 Fayette Stakes at Keeneland that same year. He recently returned after nearly a year away from racing and won the Grade 3 Hal's Hope Stakes on this track. Before the layoff he won the 2014 edition of this race and last year's Hal's Hope. That makes three straight wins on this track for Lea who loves Gulfstream and loves this race. Despite a lack of action the last year his win January 10 proved that the layoff didn't hurt a bit. He leaves from gate 4 Saturday with Joel Rosario in the irons of the 121 pound highweight looking to make it four straight graded stakes scores and a second straight repeat win.
Constitution - Todd Pletcher trained colt made his stakes debut back in March and won the Grade 1 Florida Derby on this track after two career starts resulted in two good wins - an Allowance Optional Claiming here February 22 after breaking maiden in his debut also on this track January 11. He has just two starts since March - a third behind Hoppertunity and Prontonico after showing speed and then fading in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs November 28 followed a fourth in an Allowance Optional Claiming after 6 1/2 months away. Constitution hopes to get back to the winner's circle in his third start in 10 months on a track that he's won all three career starts - with Javier Castellano aboard from the rail.
Commissioner - Todd Pletcher trained colt raced to a disappointing sixth in his graded stakes debut - the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth here last February 22 after looking very impressive in his first three career starts. He went on to a third in the Grade 3 Sunland Derby, a sixth in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby, a second in the Grade 2 Peter Pan Stakes May 10 and his best result to date - an impressive second behind Tonalist in the Belmont Stakes in June. Commissioner was out of racing for seven months after that race and recently returned to a third in an Allowance Optional Claiming on this track January 10. He hopes for his first graded stakes score Saturday and will have John Velazquez in the saddle from post 2.
Protonico - Todd Pletcher trained colt has just eight career starts with four wins, a second and a third place finish and is trending upward ahead of this race. Last time out was a good second behind Hoppertunity in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs November 28 after a nice win in the Grade 3 Discovery Handicap at Aqueduct November 1. He also won the Grade 3 Smarty Jones Stakes at Parx in September. Protonico has two wins and a second place finish in his last four starts and could be a factor Saturday. Joe Bravo rides from gate 8.
Blue Tone - Robert Hess trained gelding has 12 career starts with four wins, three seconds and two third place finishes. He made his graded stakes debut two back and finished a very respectable second in the Grade 3 Native Diver Stakes at Del Mar and followed that with another good result - a third behind Hoppertunity in the Grade 2 San Pasqual Stakes at Santa Anita January 10. He posted consecutive wins at Del Mar this summer - the overnight Harry F. Brubaker Stakes August 30 and an Allowance Optional Claiming August 3 and has looked good since. Blue Tone has never been worse than fourth in his career but has yet to register a graded stakes score. Jockey Corey Lanerie hopes to change all that from post 9 Saturday.
Sloane Avenue - has four career starts with three wins. His only North American start came two back - an eighth in the Grade 3 Hill Prince Stakes at Belmont Park but he does have two wins in Europe surrounding that effort - the last coming November 19 in a stakes at Kempton Park. Sloane Avenue hopes to make a little noise on North American soil with Jose Lezcano guiding him in his dirt debut from post 7.
East Hall - William Kaplan trained gelding has 20 career starts with five wins, four seconds and four third place finishes. He enters off a good second in the Florida Sunshine Millions Classic here January 17 which followed a nice win by two lengths in the minor Millions Classic Preview Stakes at Gulfstream Park West November 8 and another good win - in the Grade 2 Indiana Derby October 4. Before that was a disappointing sixth in the Grade 2 Super Derby and a string of good results in minor stakes action - a win at 9-1 odds in the Ohio Derby in July and consecutive seconds - behind Wildcat Red the Quality Road Stakes and the Sir Bear Stakes. East Hall has three wins and three seconds in his last seven starts overall - competitive virtually every time out. Luis Saez will be in the saddle from post 3.
Elnaawi - Kiaran McLaughlin trainee won his only start this year - the minor Native Dancer Stakes at Laurel Park January 3 after a sixth in the minor Queens County Stakes in December and an Allowance Optional Claiming score at Keeneland in October. He has placed in just one of four career graded stakes races (a third in the 2013 Wood Memorial) but hopes to change that Saturday. Julien Leparoux has been tabbed to ride from post 5.
Prayer for Relief - Dale Romans pupil was very good in the summer of 2013 - a win in the Grade 3 Cornhusker Handicap in June and a pair of seconds - in the Grade 3 Lone Star Park Handicap and the Texas Mile but he has struggled a tad since. Last time out was a respectable third in the Grade 3 Hal's Hope Stakes here January 10 after a sixth in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap November 28 and a twelfth in the Breeders' Cup Classic. He had thirds in the Grade 1 Woodward Stakes at Saratoga August 30 and the Grade 2 Suburban July 5 to go along with a good second in the Grade 3 Pimlico Special May 16 but has sprinkled in some clunkers as well. His last win came in December, 2013 - in the minor Tenacious Handicap at Fair Grounds. Prayer for Relief hopes to cure some inconsistencies and record his first win in 14 months when he leaves from the outside post with Edgard Zayas guiding him.
Catholic Cowboy - has won three of his last six starts - the minor Jewel Stakes on this track December 6, an Allowance at Saratoga in August and a Starter Allowance at Belmont Park in July and is coming off a respectable third in the Florida Sunshine Millions Classic here January 17. He has some sketchy results sandwiched in there as well - a seventh and a sixth respectively in a pair of Allowance Optional Claiming races at Keeneland in October. Overall Catholic Cowboy has four wins, two seconds and four third place finishes in 19 career starts and enters in so-so form. Paco Lopez will be in the reins from post 6.
Race 13 on Gulfstream Park's Saturday card with a Post Time of 5:58 PM.
||R. Hess, Jr.
||Prayer for Relief