Zulu Rolls to Second Straight Victory in Friday Allowance, Fountain of Youth (G2) Possible Early 12:05 P.M. Post Time for $1.05 Million Sunshine Millions Program
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier, Derrick Smith and Stonestreet Stables’ Zulu, an impressive debut winner Dec. 5 at Gulfstream Park, returned to brighten a gray afternoon with his 7 ¼-length victory Friday.
Confidently ridden by Hall of Famer John Velazquez, the 3-year-old bay Bernardini colt improved to 2-0 for Championship Meet-leading trainer Todd Pletcher, running seven furlongs in 1:23.33 over a sloppy main track.
“I thought it was a good effort,” Pletcher said. “It was nice to see him step up after only one start and stretch out a little bit, and he seemed to do it pretty professionally.”
Breaking alertly from outside post eight in the $44,000 optional claiming allowance, Zulu ($2.40) rated three wide behind a quarter-mile of 22.76 seconds and half-mile of 45.64 set by 25-1 long shot Pilot House. Zulu assumed the lead without resistance rounding the far turn, tracked by Avast Matey to his outside, but straightened out and sprinted clear in the stretch.
“Everything about his pedigree suggests he’s going to want to stretch out: (being) by Bernardini, (out of a) Summer Squall mare, the way he finished today,” Pletcher said. “All those things are encouraging, so the next step is to find out.”
Pletcher, who spoke with Tabor by phone in the winner’s circle following the victory, mentioned the $400,000 Fountain of Youth (G2) Feb. 27 at Gulfstream as a possible next step for Zulu.
“I was just telling (Tabor) he’s two-for-two at Gulfstream and at some point we have to test the waters; whether it would be in there or not is still up in the air,” he said. “We’ve got some options in front of us and that is one of them.”
Pletcher has had success in recent years with later-developing 2-year-olds that have had early success as 3-year-olds at Gulfstream including the past two winners of the $1 million Florida Derby (G1), Constitution in 2014 and Materiality last year. The 65th Florida Derby will be run April 2.
“We felt like our 2-year-olds were a little slow to come around this summer and got down here and thought we had a few that were promising and he was certainly one of them,” Pletcher said. “It’s nice to see him step up with a couple of nice wins. Now we’ll see if he’s ready for that next level.”
Early 12:05 P.M. Post Time for Sunshine Millions Program
Saturday’s 14th annual $1.05 million Sunshine Millions program will kick off with a special 12:05 p.m. post time for the first of 12 races.
The first of six Sunshine Millions stakes for Florida-breds is the $150,000 Filly & Mare Turf, carded as the fifth race. It is followed by the $150,000 Sprint (sixth), $150,000 Turf Sprint (seventh), $200,000 Distaff (ninth), $150,000 Turf (10th) and $250,000 Classic (11th).
Saturday evening, Gulfstream Park will host the 45th annual Eclipse Awards dinner and ceremony.
Who’s Hot: Championship Meet-leading jockey Javier Castellano won back-to-back races with Our Commodore ($3.60) in the sixth and Strike Up the Band ($9) in the seventh. Paco Lopez rode winners Indygita ($12.20) in the fifth race and Scorch ($24.80) in the eighth, and John Velazquez was first with Its All Relevant ($5) in the ninth and Zulu ($2.40) in the 10th. Todd Pletcher trains both Our Commodore and Zulu.
Rainbow 6 Carryover: $14,061.40 Super Hi-5 Carryover: $2,723.63 (into first race)