Grade 2 Stakes for 3-Year-Olds Featured on Super Saturday Feb. 21 Program Champion Main Sequence Tops 32 Nominations for Grade 2 Mac Diarmida
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL â€“ The $400,000 Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth (G2) attracted 41 nominations, including recent Lambholm South Holy Bull (G2) victor Upstart, for the 69th running of the important Triple Crown prep on Feb. 21. The 1 1/16-mile stakes for 3-year-olds will be featured on a program that will offer eight stakes (seven graded), including the $200,000 Mac Diarmida, in which 2014 turf and older male champion Main Sequence is expected to make his season debut.
A total of $1.375 million in purses will be offered for the eight stakes, which will include the $200,000 Davona Dale (G2), $150,000 Canadian Turf (G3), $150,000 The Very One (G3), $100,000 Rampart (G3), $100,000 Gulfstream Park Sprint (G3) and $75,000 Ladiesâ€™ Turf Sprint, as well as the Fountain of Youth and Mac Diarmida.
Ralph M. Evansâ€™ Upstart offered a dazzling performance in his 2015 debut in the Holy Bull, stalking the early pace before surging to a 5 Â½-length victory in the 1 1/16-mile stakes at Gulfstream on Jan. 24. The Rick Violette Jr.-trained ridglingâ€™s performance received a 106 Beyer Speed Figure, which is the highest turned in by a 3-year-old thus far this year.
â€œHe was a little tired for a day and a half, but after that he rebounded quickly,â€ said Violette Wednesday morning. â€œHeâ€™s been training really well (for the Fountain of Youth). Itâ€™s the first option as long as he continues to please us.â€
Upstart had concluded his 2-year-old campaign with a troubled third-place finish behind victorious Texas Red in the $1 million Breedersâ€™ Cup Juvenile (G1), in which he was beaten by just a nose by runner-up Carpe Diem.
The son of Flatter demonstrated rare talent when he broke his maiden at first asking against New York-bred juveniles by more than five lengths in a Saratoga on Aug. 15. Nine days later, Upstart captured the $200,000 Funny Cide for state-bred horses at the Upstate New York track. He made the jump to Grade 1 stakes competition to finish second behind heavily favored Daredevil in the Champagne Stakes at Belmont before shipping to Santa Anita for his game third-place finish in the Juvenile.
â€œItâ€™s pretty cool. Weâ€™ve had a nice long run with him. Heâ€™s shown his quality since last summer. Weâ€™ve been riding the wave for a long time.â€ Violette said. â€œItâ€™s wonderful. You wish you had more horses like Upstart, but itâ€™s also because horses like Upstart are so few and far between that we appreciate him even more.â€
Godolphin Racingâ€™s Frosted, who finished second behind Upstart as the favorite in the Holy Bull, is scheduled to run back in the Fountain of Youth. The Kiaran McLaughlin-trained 3-year-old bumped after the start in the Holy Bull and made a late run that never threatened the winner. In his juvenile season finale, the son of Tapit was beaten by just a half-length by Leave the Light On in the Remsen (G2), in which he broke from the No. 13 post position and raced wide throughout the 1 1/8-mile stakes against a strong inside bias.
Trainer Todd Pletcher, the defending 11-time training champion for Gulfstreamâ€™s Championship Meet, nominated 10 horses to the Fountain of Youth, including likely starter Itsaknockout, who has launched his career with a pair of victories at Gulfstream, including a handy 5 Â½-length in a first-level optional claiming allowance on Jan. 17. The Starlight Stableâ€™s Lemon Drop Kid colt was joined on the nominations list by Blame Jim, Carpe Diem, Competitive Edge, Daredevil, J S Bach, Khozan, Madefromlucky, Materiality and Stanford.
Crossed Sabres Farmâ€™s Bluegrass Singer, who won the Mucho Macho Man Stakes at Gulfstream on Jan. 3, is expected to run in the Fountain of Youth after setting the pace and finishing third in the Holy Bull.
Amiâ€™s Flatter, fourth in the Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs on Jan. 31, is expected to start in the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park, where Ivan Dalosâ€™ son of Flatter finished a strong second behind Bluegrass Singer in the Mucho Macho Man.
Team Valor Internationalâ€™s Indianaughty, who captured an entry-level turf allowance in his U.S. debut at Gulfstream on Jan. 14 after winning twice in England on synthetic surfaces; and Gorgeous Bird, a handy seven-length optional claiming allowance winner at Gulfstream on Jan. 24, are among the more notable nominees for the Fountain of Youth.
Flaxman Holdingsâ€™ Main Sequence, one of 32 nominees for the Mac Diarmida, is on track for his 2015 debut following Mondayâ€™s seven-furlong workout in 1:23.90 over the turf course at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream Parkâ€™s satellite training facility in Palm Beach.
â€œItâ€™s the plan. He has one more work next week,â€ said trainer Graham Motion, whose plan is to use the Mac Diarmida, a 1 3/8-mile turf stakes, as a prep for the Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) on March 28.
Main Sequence, who had campaigned in Europe, won four straight Grade 1 races after being brought to the U.S. last year and turned over to Motion. The son of Aldebaran won the United Nations at Monmouth on July 6 before going on to capture the Sword Dancer at Saratoga, the Turf Classic Invitational at Belmont and the Breedersâ€™ Cup Turf at Santa Anita. His perfect 2014 season earned him two Eclipse Awards as North Americaâ€™s top male turf campaigner and premier older male, as well as being a finalist for the Horse of the Year title.
The 6-year-old gelding, who earned $2.6 million in 2014, will attract heightened attention in his 2015 debut.
â€œThereâ€™s a certain amount of pressure. When youâ€™ve won Eclipse Awards like he has, it adds a certain amount of pressure, but thatâ€™s a good thing,â€ Motion said. â€œYou want to see the horse run well. Itâ€™s a little nerve-racking, especially because the horse has a tendency to break a step slow from the gate and when he wins, he doesnâ€™t win by much. Itâ€™s certainly a little nerve-racking in that respect, but itâ€™s also exciting.â€
Main Sequenceâ€™s ascension to superstar status has been rewarding for his trainer. â€œI never could have anticipated it. At this time last year when he came to me, he was very sick. When I talked to (European trainer) David Lanigan about him he was very high on him. He had a very high regard for him. For that reason, I had a lot of respect for the horse, but could I have imagined the horse getting us to the heights that heâ€™s done? No way,â€ Motion said.
Twilight Eclipse, who has fallen victim to Main Sequence in four consecutive Grade 1 stakes while racing sharply, is expected to once again challenge the Motion trainee. The Tom Albertrani-trained 6-year-old gelding was beaten by a neck in a United Nations second-place finish, three-quarters of a length in a third-place finish in the Sword Dancer, a neck in a second-place Joe Hirsch Turf Classic finish, and 1 Â¾ lengths while finishing third in the Breedersâ€™ Cup Turf.
West Point Thoroughbredsâ€™ Twilight Eclipse has won two of three starts over Gulfstreamâ€™s turf course, including a world record performance in the 1 Â½-mile Pan American Stakes (G2) in 2013.
Also featured on the Feb. 21 card:
The Grade 2 Davona Dale, a mile stakes for 3-year-old fillies, attracted 30 nominations, including Stonestreet Stableâ€™s Perchance, the Kiaran McLaughlin-trained Perchance, who ran her career record to 2-for-2 with a sharp optional claiming allowance score at Gulfstream on Jan. 22. The Grade 3 Canadian Turf, a mile turf stakes, received 41 nominations, including Gainesway Farmâ€™s Ring Weekend, whom Motion saddled for back-to-back graded-stakes wins in the Saranac at Saratoga and the Hill Prince at Belmont before finishing a troubled sixth in the Twilight Derby (G2) at Santa Anita on Oct. 31.
The Grade 3 The Very One, a 1 1/8-mile turf stakes for fillies and mare, received 17 nominations, including Cay Dancer, a Chad Brown-trained European import who will seek to improve on a wide trip in her recent U.S. debut.
The Grade 3 Rampart, a mile stakes for fillies and mares, fielded 18 nominations, including Godolphin Racingâ€™s Wedding Toast, whom McLaughlin saddled for a victory in the recent Miami Shores Handicap at Gulfstream.
The Grade 3 Gulfstream Park Sprint, a 6 Â½-furlong stakes for 4-year-olds and up, received 19 nominations, including Team Valor Internationalâ€™s Speechify, a Ralph Nicks-trained 5-year-old who is coming off a victory in the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector at Gulfstream on Dec. 27.
The Ladies Turf Sprint, a 5-furlong turf stakes for fillies and mares, got 26 nominations, including St. George Stableâ€™s Fascinate, whom Efren Loza Jr. has saddled for three straight victories, including a Sparkler Stakes win at Gulfstream Park West on Nov. 1.