Marablue Farm LLC's Country Singer, an impressive winner of his two most recent races, is set to make his stakes debut in Saturday's $150,000 Swale Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park.
The homebred son of Majesticperfection will take on 10 more experienced rivals in the seven-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds on Saturday's 12-race program that will be headlined by the $350,000 Holy Bull Stakes (G2), a 1 1/16-mile stakes for 3-year-olds.
||Irad Ortiz, Jr.
||Fernando Salazar Becerra
|Victor Barboza, Jr.
"He's headed in the right direction. His races have been good. His last race was very impressive," trainer Ralph Nicks said. "He's a big strong, pretty horse. I would expect a very good race from him Saturday."
Country Singer, who came up short in the stretch run of his Sept. 29 debut to finish fourth, graduated in style Nov. 3 at Gulfstream Park West, rolling to a 5 1/2-length victory after setting the pace in a 6 1/2-furlong maiden race. The Kentucky-bred colt came right back to post a front-running triumph by 6 1/2 lengths in a six-furlong, entry-level optional claiming race at Gulfstream Dec. 19.
"He's always trained forward," Nicks said. "He's a big, heavy horse. His races have gotten him fitter, so I'd expect him to keep improving."
An exciting 3-year-old prospect usually gives rise to Derby dreaming, but Nicks isn't looking at the Swale as a springboard to the spring classics.
"I think he's a sprinter. His dad was a good sprinter," Nicks said. "He gives me the impression of being a sprinter."
Jose Ortiz is scheduled to ride Country Singer for the first time Saturday.
Call Paul brings graded-stakes credentials into the Swale for owners Michael Dubb, David Simon, Bethlehem Stables LLC and Bruce Irom. The 3-year-old Pennsylvania-bred colt captured the Saratoga Special (G2) in his second career start last August. The son of Friesan Fire went on to finish third in the Champagne (G1) at Belmont and the Nashua (G3) at Aqueduct. Most recently, Call Paul captured a Pennsylvania-bred stakes while cutting back from a mile to seven furlongs.
Trainer Jason Servis gave Irad Ortiz Jr. the call.
Pichi Investments LLC's Zenden, who captured his Sept. 29 debut in which Country Singer finished fourth, enters the Swale with an off-the-pace victory in the six-furlong Buffalo Man Stakes Dec. 8.
Emisael Jaramillo has the return mount aboard the Victor Barboza Jr.-trained colt.
Seismic Jolt, an $800,000 purchase at the 2018 OBS April 2-year-olds-in-training sale, also enters the Swale off a stakes victory at Gulfstream Park. Owned by e Five Racing Thoroughbreds and Stonestreet Stables LLC, the son of Kantharos captured the six-furlong Limehouse Stakes Jan. 5. The David Fawkes-trained colt is undefeated in two starts on dirt after beginning his career in a pair of turf races.
Tyler Gaffalione has the return mount aboard the Florida-bred colt.
Topper T will make his third straight graded-stakes start in the Swale after finishing off-the-board in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) and the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs. Trained by Bill Mott for owners Gary Barber, Wachtel Stable and Pantofel Stable, the Iowa-bred son of Bellamy Road began his career at Prairie Meadows and Canterbury Park.
Javier Castellano has the mount.
Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and William Branch's Frosted Grace will cut back from a mile to seven furlongs for the Swale after coming up just short of holding off undefeated Federal Case by a neck. The Kathy Ritvo-trained son of Mark Valeski previously captured a seven-furlong maiden special weight race at Gulfstream Park West.
Paco Lopez returns to the saddle Saturday.
Jackson, who finished second behind Zenden in the Buffalo Man; Take Command, who has won two of three starts; High Crime, who broke his maiden by 7 3/4 lengths in his second lifetime start; Chinomado and Hard Belle round out the field.