Gulfstream Park West News & Notes - Thu 11/6

December 10, 2019

Mr. Jordan Favored to ‘Air’ in Saturday’s $100,000 Juvenile Sprint

MIAMI GARDENS, FL – Mr. Jordan. The name summons up the epitome of athleticism, talent and class.

Mr. Jordan, the horse, showed signs of possessing those traits in the only race of his life, but the 2-year-old son of Kantharos was not named to honor NBA legend Michael Jordan.

“One of the owners, Leon Ellman, named him after one of his grandchildren,” revealed Eddie Plesa Jr., who trains the Florida-bred colt for his wife, Laurie, David Melin and Ellman.

Mr. Jordan’s performance on Sept. 14 certainly did nothing to erase the image of a soaring Michael Jordan from the minds of his backers at Monmouth Park, where he won his debut with complete authority under a hand ride from jockey Paco Lopez. The flashy gray colt broke on top and never was challenged in the 5 ½-furlong maiden race, scoring by 6 ½ lengths in a swift 1:03 1/5. Mr. Jordan was favored at 4-5 in a field of eight, a clear indication that he hardly kept his talent a secret while preparing for his debut.

“When a horse runs that big, you’d have to say a horse exceeded your expectations. What I expected was for him to win. He did it in the way that you really appreciate, and you say to yourself, ‘Do I think this horse is something out of the ordinary.’ It looks like I could be right,” Plesa said. “He showed he had a lot of ability from the get-go. I always had him pegged as one of my top two 2-year-olds.”

On the strength of his dazzling debut, Mr. Jordan has been installed as the 5-2 morning-line favorite in Saturday’s $100,000 Juvenile Sprint, one of seven $100,000 stakes for Florida-bred horses on Sunshine Millions Preview Day at Gulfstream Park West.

“He’s settled in nicely. He’s had a few works and got acclimated to the track,” said Plesa, whose trainee has breezed three times at a half-mile at Gulfstream Park West since shipping from Monmouth early last month. “We’re very anxious to run him.”

Mr. Jordan, who will again be ridden by Lopez, is scheduled to face eight rivals in the 6 ½-furlong Juvenile Sprint, including the Stanley Gold-trained trio of Sing Praises, Twotwentyfive A and Hear That Tune, as well as trainer Ralph Nicks’ impressive debut winner, Lakota Warrior.

Mr. Jordan was purchased for $155,000 at the 2014 OBS April sale for 2-year-olds in training.

“He was by a young stallion who has proven himself to be out of the ordinary. I kind of liked that,” Plesa recalled. “I kind of liked his looks. Most of the horses I buy, I do it on how they look to me. I liked him.”

Plesa is also scheduled to saddle Puddifoot for the $100,000 Millions Distaff Preview. The 3-year-old daughter of Red Giant was undefeated in two starts last year, winning her debut at Monmouth by 4 ¾ lengths and the $125,000 Juvenile Fillies Sprint at Gulfstream by six lengths.

This year, Puddifoot went winless in three starts before capturing an allowance race at Parx by 4 ½ lengths in her most recent start.

“As a 2-year-old, she looked like she could be anything. She broke her maiden impressively. Then she won a Florida-bred stake race at Gulfstream rather impressively. We needed to give her a little time, which we did,” Plesa said. “She was a little bit of a disappointment the first part of the summer. Her last race was a big race over a Parx, so I think she’s on track to pick up where she looked like she could have been during her 2-year-old career.”

Jaiden’s Best to Make Turf Debut in Juvenile Turf Stakes

Stakes-placed Jaiden’s Best, third in both the Dr. Fager and Affirmed divisions of this summer’s Florida Sire Stakes (FSS) series, returns to stakes company this Saturday at Gulfstream Park West, but on a new surface.

Last seen finishing ninth, beaten 11 ½ lengths, in the FSS’s final leg, the $350,000 In Reality Stakes, the Kathleen O’Connell-trained 2-year-old was entered in this weekend’s $100,000 Juvenile Turf Stakes.

On paper, Jaiden’s Best’s poor showing in the In Reality appears to be a puzzling one, considering his previous form. However, O’Connell said she believes she knows exactly what led to her colt’s sub-par effort.

“In the [In Reality], you can tell by the times of the race that the track was very, very deep and miring. He does not like a deep track,” O’Connell said. “He likes a hard track, so I’m hoping for a firm turf, but I think that will make the difference, because he really struggled with the track in the last race.”

O’Connell also thinks the mile distance of the Juvenile Turf will play more into the son of Wildcat Heir’s favor than the 6 ½-furlong distance of Saturday’s Juvenile Sprint.

“I just think the two turns will help him,” O’Connell said. “It’s not so much that he couldn’t handle the mile and a sixteenth of the [In Reality]. It’s more that he couldn’t handle the track.”

Jaiden’s Best, who impressively broke his maiden by three lengths at Gulfstream in July, had never finished off the board prior to the In Reality. The colt will look to regain that form when he takes to the lawn for the first time. His pedigree suggests the surface should suit him. While his dam ran primarily on dirt and has not yet produced a turf winner, his sire produced popular South Florida turf runner Daring Kathy, recent winner of the Cellars Shiraz Stakes on Oct. 18, among other successful grass specialists. Moreover, his dam’s sire, the late Sword Dance (IRE), was a graded-stakes winner on grass and sired numerous turf winners, including 1997 Arlington Million (G1) winner Marlin.

“I think he will enjoy the turf,” O’Connell said. “We’ll see how it goes.”

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