Grade 1 Winners Among 107 Nominations for Weekend Stakes Pletcher Maiden Knocks Out Debut Victory
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL â€“ Grade 1 winners Constitution, Danza and Lochte are among the 107 horses nominated to a quartet of December 13 stakes that highlight the second weekend of racing during Gulfstream Parkâ€™s Championship Meet.
A 39-1 upset winner of the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap in February, Lochte heads a list of horses for the third running of the $100,000 El Prado, a 7 Â½-furlong grass sprint for 3-year-olds and up, and is also nominated to the $100,000 Harlanâ€™s Holiday for 3-year-olds and up going 1 1/16 miles on dirt.
A 4-year-old gelding owned by Crossed Sabres Farm, Lochte is one of three Marcus Vitali-trained horses nominated to both the El Prado and Harlanâ€™s Holiday, along with Grade 2 winner Valid and graded stakes-placed Midnight Cello.
Multiple graded stakes-placed Triple Arch, also trained by Vitali for Crossed Sabres Farm, is among 30 nominees to the $100,000 South Beach for fillies and mares 3 and up at 7 Â½ furlongs on grass. The South Beach also attracted defending champion Baffle Me and Daring Kathy, undefeated in five South Florida turf starts including the My Charmer (G3).
â€œIâ€™m looking at everything at the moment,â€ Vitali said. â€œI havenâ€™t made any decisions, but Iâ€™m looking. I need somewhere to run them. I think in the Harlanâ€™s Holiday youâ€™ll probably see Valid show up. Midnight Cello will probably run in the El Prado. Lochte weâ€™re going to sit tight with for the moment and Triple Arch will run.â€
Lochte has been in the money in eight of 12 starts this year, most recently finishing fourth by 2 Â½ lengths in the Tropical Turf Handicap (G3) on November 22 at Gulfstream Park West.
â€œLochte is doing excellent,â€ Vitali said. â€œItâ€™s tough having a horse thatâ€™s totally ready to go and thereâ€™s really nowhere to run him at the moment. Itâ€™s either too short or too long. We brought him back here hoping weâ€™d have a few more opportunities to run him. Heâ€™s a horse for course here. He loves this track.â€
Trainer Todd Pletcher nominated Consitution and Danza to the Harlanâ€™s Holiday.
Constitution won the Florida Derby (G1) in March in his graded stakes debut but an injury kept him off the Triple Crown trail. He returned in October and most recently was third in the Clark Handicap (G1). Danza has not raced since finishing a strong third in the Kentucky Derby (G1) after shocking the Arkansas Derby (G1) at odds of 41-1.
Multiple graded stakes winners Protonico, also trained by Pletcher; Csaba, based at Gulfstream with trainer Phil Gleaves; and Pants On Fire are also nominated to the Harlanâ€™s Holiday.
The first graded stakes race of the Championship Meet is the 36th renewal of the $100,000 Sugar Swirl for fillies and mares 3 and up going six furlongs on the main track. A total of 15 horses were nominated, including graded stakes winners Merry Meadow, R Free Roll, Sweet Whiskey and Wildcat Lily.
Pletcher Maiden Knocks Out Debut Victory
Itsaknockout took the lead at the top of the stretch and held off favored stablemate Old Mountain Lane to win the seventh race, a $40,000 maiden special weight going seven furlongs on the main track.
Making his race debut for Starlight Racing and 11-time defending Championship Meet leading trainer Todd Pletcher, Itsaknockout ($12.80) got his nose down on the wire to edge second-time starter Old Mountain Lane, stopping the timer in 1:24.96.
A juvenile bay son of multiple Grade 1 winner Lemon Drop Kid, Itsaknockout was purchased for $350,000 out of Fasig-Tiptonâ€™s Saratoga Selected Yearlings sale last August. He had been prepping for his unveiling with Pletcherâ€™s South Florida string at Palm Beach Downs.
â€œHeâ€™s been training really well, doing everything right. We were optimistic,â€ Pletcher said. â€œWe kind of felt like a start is always a big advantage, but weâ€™re not surprised he ran well. He trained like he might. I think heâ€™s still learning. When he got to the lead he was a little unsure of what to do with it, but I thought it was a good effort from a horse with a pedigree that you would think would want to stretch out.â€
Jockey Nunez OK Following Paddock Incident
Clerk of Scales Victor Sanchez said jockey Eduardo Nunez banged his knee but was OK after being unseated in the paddock by his mount, 2-year-old colt Ore, prior to the seventh race. Nunez was replaced in the seventh by Diego Gomez and Edgard Zayas on Lying Eyes in the 10th.
Whoâ€™s Hot: Jockeys Luis Saez and Edgard Zayas each collected three wins on the day. Saez was first with Ya Esta ($6.40) in the opener, This Quay Home ($22.20) in the third and Itsaknockout in the seventh. Zayas, leading rider at Gulfstream Park Westâ€™s Fall Turf Festival meet and Gulfstream's summer meet, won the second with Mornin Brew ($13), the fifth with Yes Blue ($3.60) and the featured ninth with Atreides ($2.80). Jockey Miguez Vasquez had two wins, with Reign It In ($18.20) in the fourth and Petite Lapin ($) in the 10th.
Rainbow 6 Carryover: $23,772.71 Super Hi-5 Carryover: $14,589.96