Gold Trainees Seeking to Make the Grade in Gulfstream Stakes War Story Tackles New Challenge in Tropical Park Derby
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Trainer Stanley Gold is planning to be a frequent participant in upcoming graded-stakes races during Gulfstream’s Championship Meet, starting with Saturday’s $100,000 Mr. Prospector (G3).
The veteran trainer expects to be well represented in the six-furlong sprint by proven stakes performers C. Zee and Grande Shores. The former is a graded-stakes winner, having captured the Gulfstream Sprint Handicap (G3) in February, while the latter is an uber-consistent runner who came up short of becoming a graded-stakes winner by a neck in the Fred Hooper (G3) in February.
Gold will also have a battle-tested horse in the $100,000 Sugar Swirl (G3) Dec. 26 after deciding to bypass last Saturday’s Rampart (G3) with Dogwood Trail, who captured the Azalea (G3) on Summit of Speed Day July 5.
“I didn’t want to run her a mile,” said Gold, whose 3-year-old trainee has been in light training since finishing second in the $150,000 FSS Meadow Star Oct. 3. “I just backed off her and kept her from getting too high. I haven’t done much with her. She had some R & R, just gallops and some slow works. I just let her unwind a bit. Now, going forward, I’m going to start leaning on her.”
Dogwood Trail breezed six furlongs at Gulfstream Park in 1:11.45 Sunday in preparation for the six-furlong Sugar Swirl.
While Dogwood Trail, C. Zee and Grande Shores have proven themselves against graded-stakes competition, a few of their Jacks or Better Farm stablemates will be given acid tests for class in graded stakes during the next month.
Ballet Diva, a multiple stakes winner whose only off-the-board finish came in a two-turn race, is being pointed to the six-furlong $100,000 Old Hat (G3) Jan. 2. The 2-year-old daughter of Hear No Evil captured the House Party Stakes by two lengths at Gulfstream Park West last time out.
“It was a nice win, but it will be a whole different breed of horse running in the Old Hat. It’s a graded stakes,” Gold said. “This race will be a true test of how much quality she’s got.”
While Ballet Diva will take a step up in class for the Old Hat, stablemate Awesome Banner may face an imposing challenge in the $100,000 Hutcheson (G3) the same day. Awesome Banner debuted with a thoroughly dominating victory by nearly 10 lengths while setting a track record (51.07 seconds) for 4 ½ furlongs June 5 before heading to the sidelines.
“He’s a couple works away. He could be in an a-other-than, which is a logical step, or we might find out real quick and throw him in the Hutcheson,” Gold said. “He’s as inexperienced as a horse can be. He’s had one race in a track record time. It really wasn’t a horse race. Then, you’re talking about throwing him to the wolves. But if you asked me today if I’m going to throw him to the wolves – yes.
“He’s really settled; he looks good; he’s training good," said Gold, whose promising trainee breezed six furlongs in 1:11.61 Tuesday morning. "He didn’t look like a 2-year-old when he came in. He looked like a 3-year-old.”
Although the $100,000 Mucho Macho Man is not yet graded, the mile stakes for newly turned 3-year-olds on Jan. 2 will offer a class check for Fellowship, the late-charging winner of the $500,000 FSS In Reality Stakes Oct. 3 at Gulfstream and runner-up in the Smooth Air at Gulfstream Park West last time out.
“I’m not sure how much potential he’s got. Because of his style, it makes you hopeful that he’ll keep on going and go long. Again, what we ran against (at Gulfstream Park West) is nothing compared to what we’ll run against here,” Gold said. “We’re running against better, but we’re running further, so you’ve got to give him the chance.”
War Story Tackles New Challenge in Tropical Park Derby
Loooch Racing Stables and Glenn Ellis’ multiple graded stakes-placed War Story, 16th behind Triple Crown champion American Pharoah in the Kentucky Derby (G1), will try turf for the first time in Saturday’s $75,000 Tropical Park Derby.
Making his debut for trainer Peter Walder, the gelded 3-year-old son of Northern Afleet out of the Pulpit mare Belle Watling was most recently eighth of 11 following a slow break in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) Oct. 30 at Keeneland.
“We’re going to take a shot and try him on the grass,” Walder said. “He ran against some pretty salty horses this year. He’s bred for the grass. I’ve watched him work a couple of times and he’s just got that high action. He’s a nice little horse.”
Saturday will be the sixth Derby of the year for War Story, who spent last winter at Fair Grounds and was second in the LeComte (G3) and Risen Star (G2) before finishing third in the Louisiana Derby (G2). Following a trip to Kentucky, he ran fourth in the Ohio Derby, third in the West Virginia Derby (G2) and sixth in a wide trip in the Pennsylvania Derby (G2), his last start prior to the Breeders’ Cup.
War Story has had three sharp works at Gulfstream since joining Walder, the first two on dirt followed by a five-furlong breeze in 1:02.85 over the grass Dec. 13. He went three furlongs in 35.56 seconds Nov. 28 first time for Walder.
“They were telling me he doesn’t work like that. I believe that when a horse does that, they’re kind of touting themselves,” Walder said. “He’s all right. He’s bred for the grass and he’s got that action, and at least this way it kind of gives you an idea of where to go with him next year.”
War Story opened his career with back-to-back wins last year, a maiden victory and an entry-level allowance, each despite trouble at the start. The Tropical Park Derby will be his eighth straight stakes attempt.
“If he’s a grass horse, you add a different dimension. If not, we just stick to the dirt,” Walder said. “You can come back and win an allowance race because he’s still eligible for a three-life allowance, pick his head up and go from there.”
Weekend Hideaway Takes on Graded Company in Mr. Prospector
Already a five-time stakes winner including the Sunshine Millions Sprint at Gulfstream Park Jan. 17, Red and Black Stable’s Weekend Hideaway goes after his first career graded victory in Saturday’s $100,000 Mr. Prospector (G3).
It will be the seventh graded-stakes try for the 5-year-old New York-bred, whose best finish was a third in the 2012 Futurity (G2) at Belmont Park. In his most recent attempt, Weekend Hideaway was sixth in the Vosburgh (G1) Oct. 24.
Trained by Phil Serpe, the son of Speightstown was winless following his four-length victory in the Sunshine Millions Sprint before rolling to a 6 ¼-length score Nov. 22 at Gulfstream Park West. Originally carded for five furlongs on the turf, it was moved to a sloppy and sealed main track at the same distance.
“I was looking for a spot for him and it really came up his way. It was an off-the-turf race, it was sloppy, and he likes the slop,” Serpe said. “We just needed something, maybe a little confidence builder, and I think that worked in his favor.”
Fifth as the favorite in the Gulfstream Park Sprint (G3) Feb. 21, Weekend Hideaway’s year includes tough trips in the Tale of the Cat Stakes and Hudson Handicap, in which he was fourth and third, respectively, and he was also pulled up after jumping a shadow in a Monmouth Park allowance in June and did not finish.
“I guess you could make up excuses for a couple of his races, but the bottom line is he needed to get back to the winner’s circle. We accomplished that in his last start and hopefully we move forward,” Serpe said. “It’s kind of why we got him down here. The most important thing I wanted to do was get a win for him, which we did. We’re just trying to take it one race at a time.”
Weekend Hideaway drew the far outside post in a field of seven that includes 2014 winner Speechify, 2013 winner Singanothersong, Grade 3 winner C. Zee and Grade 1-placed Stallwalkin’ Dude. Paco Lopez will be aboard at 119 pounds.
“He’s pretty versatile. He’s either on the lead or he sits right off it,” Serpe said. “He’s good that way. He doesn’t get too aggressive in the bridle where he’s running off with you."