Saturdayâ€™s Juvenile Showcase Features Undefeated Mr. Jordan in Smooth Air
Richard the Great Seeks to Conquer Foes in Six-Furlong Buffalo Man Maker-Trained Duo Top Large Field for Pulpit Stakes on Turf
MIAMI GARDENS, FL â€“ Two races into his promising career, what more could anyone possibly ask of Mr. Jordan?
The 2-year-old son of Kantharos has distinguished himself as a most exciting prospect after capturing his first two races with startling ease, each time drawing clear in hand and in a fast time.
Plesa has the utmost confidence in Mr. Jordan, but the Gulfstream Park West-based conditioner is well aware that the Smooth Air will provide a big test for his talented colt and jockey Gabriel Saez.
â€œI need to find out if he can go around two turns. If you look at his pedigree briefly, youâ€™re going to wonder about it. But an optimist could say, â€˜Though his sire was 3-for-3 and only ran sprint races, you donâ€™t know if he could go longer because he never had the opportunity.â€™â€ Plesa said. â€œWeâ€™re taking that into consideration. Thereâ€™s no reason to think he wonâ€™t go long. Paco (Lopez), the first time he worked him, he said heâ€™d go a distance. So, I hope heâ€™s right. It looks like an opportune time. Heâ€™s here at his home course and heâ€™s won over this racetrack, so why not?â€
Kantharos ran only three times in a career that was halted by injury after a dominating victory in the 2010 Saratoga Special at 6 Â½ furlongs.
Mr. Jordan debuted at 5 Â½ furlongs at Monmouth Park on Sept. 14, posting a handy front-running victory by 6 Â¼ lengths as the 4-5 favorite. Seven weeks later, he captured his stakes debut in the 6 Â½-furlong Juvenile Sprint for Florida-bred 2-year-olds on Nov. 8 at Gulfstream Park, drawing away by three lengths as the 4-5 favorite.
Mr. Jordan is expected to be heavily favored again in the one-mile Smooth Air against nine rivals, including Morganâ€™s Harbor, who finished three lengths behind the probable favorite in the Juvenile Sprint on Nov. 8. Hero of Honor, who broke his maiden at Churchill before finishing second in a optional claiming allowance at Gulfstream Park West; and Juan and Bina, a recent debut winner at Gulfstream Park West; are also prominent among Mr. Jordanâ€™s challengers. Hear That Tune, The Judge Chuckles, Lucky Delfino, Honor Earned, Fear the Cowboy and Hubba Shake were also entered.
As brilliant as Mr. Jordan has been while launching his career, his trainer expects him to improve with experience.
"Heâ€™s kind of an anxious horse. Heâ€™s an anxious horse in the morning; heâ€™s an anxious horse in the afternoon. That being said, I thought his last race was really impressive, because he needs to control his wants and his wishes. He settled in there nicely under adverse circumstances and did what he needed to do to win the race,â€ Plesa said. â€œIs there room to improve his demeanor? I would absolutely say so, but I think he can only get better with more experience. Some horses are as good as theyâ€™re going to be after they run one or two times, but with him, itâ€™s more of a building process that weâ€™re going to see. I think each step is a step in the right direction.â€
The Plesa-trained Itsmyluckyday, a Grade 1 stakes-winning millionaire, is slated to make his final career start in Saturdayâ€™s Cigar Mile at Aqueduct before retiring to stallion duty, but his trainer has opted to stay close to home.
â€œA lot of thought went into it. Iâ€™m looking forward to his race and his next stage of his career. Itâ€™s bittersweet and I just thought with everything involved â€“ Thanksgiving holiday, a Northeaster coming in (to the Northeast) â€“ it would just be easier for me to be here,â€ Plesa said. â€œI just felt Iâ€™m better served to be here.â€
The $75,000 Buffalo Man, a six-furlong stakes, will also feature an undefeated 2-year-old colt with star potential in Richard the Great. The juvenile son of Distorted Humor is 2-for-2 for owner/breeder Arindel Farms. The Ralph Nicks-trained colt debuted with an off-the-pace two-length victory over 12 Florida-bred rivals at five furlongs on Aug. 17. He came back on Sept. 28 to prevail in a first-level optional claiming allowance by 6 Â¾ lengths after pressing the pace.
â€œHis first race was really impressive. He has a lot pedigree and he came to us straightforward. Heâ€™s a little horse that doesnâ€™t make mistakes, or at least, he hasnâ€™t so far. Whatever you ask him to do, he does, and he does it with good energy,â€ Nicks said. â€œThe second race was a very, very impressive race. I thought heâ€™d run well, but he ran better than I even expected. Heâ€™s shown more in the afternoons than he does in the morning, so far.â€
Nicks had the option to run Richard the Great in the Smooth Air around two turns, but opted for the one-turn Buffalo Man.
â€œItâ€™s just timing. I donâ€™t think a route will be a problem for him. Actually, Iâ€™m interested in stretching him out,â€ said Nicks, who named Hall of Famer Edgar Prado to ride Richard the Great for the first time.
Although he hasnâ€™t raced for two months, Nicks expects Richard the Great to make a strong showing in his stakes debut Saturday.
â€œHeâ€™s good. We gave him a little time for some heat in his shins, but that settled right down â€“ just doing right by the horse there,â€ Nicks said. â€œHeâ€™s doing well. He has three good breezes and should be right on track.â€
Richard the Great is tall on talent but a little short on stature.
â€œHeâ€™s a pretty horse, just not that tall. I think heâ€™s about 15 hands,â€ Nicks said. â€œBut he has good length to him and a good stride to him and a lot of substance.â€
Richard the Great is scheduled to face nine rivals, including Brother Bobo, the half-brother to multiple-stakes winner Ribo Bobo who recently captured his career debut with an off-the-pace 5 Â½-furlong score at Gulfstream Park West on Oct. 27. Twotwentyfive A., who captured the Florida Sire Stakes Affirmed division; Royal Czar, an impressive debut winner at Gulfstream Park West; Posse Dreamin, who captured a Jersey-bred stakes race last time out at Monmouth; and Ambidextrous Alex, a maiden winner at Keeneland last time out; should provide formidable opposition. X Y Jet, Alcaravan, Bluegrass Singer and Itâ€™s Not Me were also entered in the Buffalo Man.
The $75,000 Pulpit Stakes is scheduled to be contested at one mile on turf by a field of 12 (plus to also-eligibles), including the Michael Maker-trained duo of Firespike and Two Step Temper. Firespike is coming off an impressive victory on the Sunshine Millions Preview card over the Gulfstream Park West turf course on Nov. 8. The son of Flower Alley, who broke his maiden over the Saratoga turf before finishing off the board in the Grade 1 Breedersâ€™ Futurity on Keenelandâ€™s main track, took to the local turf while surging from off the pace to win by 3 Â½ lengths under Prado. Two Step Temper closed with a wide rush to win at first asking to score by a half-length in his 7 Â½-furlong debut.
Trainer Chad Brown also entered two in the Pulpit, including Night Prowler, who broke his maiden by 2 Â½ lengths at Belmont on Oct 17, and Chief Kitten, who finished off the board in the Bourbon (G3) at Keeneland after breaking his maiden at Belmont.
Iâ€™m Venezuelan, the runner-up to Firespike in his most recent start; Hubba Shake, who captured the Armed Forces Stakes at Gulfstream Park before finishing far behind Firespike last time out; and Croninthebarbarian, who won the Kentucky Downs Juvenile before finishing sixth in the Bourbon; are among the more formidable contenders in the Pulpit. Kutuzov, Jakobâ€™s Way, Less Than Perfect, Ready Strike, Unsaintly, and also-eligibles Night Out and Innocuous round out the field.