A son of Officer, the Kentucky-bred Alsvid has won three straight for owners Black Hawk Stable and trainer Chris Hartman, who decided to take a chance with their veteran sprinter and give him the opportunity to compete on racing’s biggest stage. The road to achieving that goal will now run through Gulfstream, who will play host to the $1.175 million Summit of Speed program for the first time in its history next Sunday, July 5.
“After he won his last race, his owner paid the late fee to get him into the Breeders’ Cup,” Hartman said. “He had to nominate him to get him in, so he paid the $50,000 to get him into the race. [The Smile] is a Win and You’re In race, so that’s why we targeted it.”
Alsvid has not finished out of the money in five starts since running second in February’s King Cotton Stakes at Oaklawn, his first start in more than four months. In that time, he’s captured the first two graded events of his career, triumphing in the Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) in addition to the Aristides. In the Aristides, the hard-knocking campaigner ran right by the 2014 Eclipse Champion Sprinter in Work All Week, scoring by two lengths. Those two are likely to have a rematch in the Smile, as Midwest Thoroughbreds’ Breeders’ Cup victor is also planning to ship from Kentucky to Hallandale for the Smile.
“What impressed me the most [about his Aristides win] was the style that he did it in,” Hartman said. “I know that Work All Week had a slight stumble out of the gate, but I had another horse - a sprinter - in Black Bear, and we ran behind Work All Week numerous times, and he’s a very good horse. But I guess he was a little rusty, and he missed the break a little bit, and we got him. [Alsvid’s] last race was probably visually more impressive than the prior wins in his career just in the way he did it. The horse is on the up and up right now, and we thought we’d take a stab at the race down there.”
“It looks like we’re going straight into the eye of the tiger again, I guess!” he added. “That’s a really tough horse in Work All Week. He’s a warrior.”
So too, is Alsvid, who has won 13 of 30 career starts and earned almost $1 million in purses. However, his 6-year-old campaign has unquestionably been his best so far. With six months remaining in 2015, Alsvid has already earned more than $300,000, his highest purse total in five seasons of racing.
“He’s always been real consistent. Obviously, he’s running better than he ever has, but I think that has to do be attributed to the fact that we gave him a little bit of a break, and he came back from the break just outstanding,” Hartman said. “The horse has been strong as ever. He came off the freshening in November of last year, and he just came back gangbusters. I think that and the fact that [jockey Chris Landeros] is back on the horse. Chris rode the horse as a 2- and a 3-year-old, and they have quite a rapport together. He gets along with that horse extremely well. I think those are the two common themes that seem to be making the biggest difference in the horse’s form reversal.”
City of Weston On Track for Smile Sprint (G2)
Loooch Racing Stables’ City of Weston is also on track for a start in Gulfstream’s Smile Sprint Stakes (G2), according to trainer Peter Walder.
The 5-year-old son of Holy Bull joined Walder’s barn via a $62,500 claim out of a March 15th optional claimer at Gulfstream. He debuted for his new connections with a strong victory over the classy Grand Shores in the Blue Heron Handicap on April 23 and most recently finished third behind that rival in the Parrot Key Stakes on June 6.
“He came back good,” Walder said. “He came back tired, which is kind of surprising, but he had to run hard to keep up to that quick pace. One of his front shoes shifted, which obviously didn’t help at all, but I’m not going to sit there and use that as an excuse. The bottom line is we got beat. I have to make some adjustments and sharpen him up a little bit, so that’s what we’ll do.”
“When he ran in the Blue Heron, and he came out of the gate, he was sitting right there,” Walder added.“They went :23 and :46 [seconds for the opening two quarters], and he had a ton of horse left, whereas [in the Parrot Key], [jockey Edgard Zayas] was riding him from start to finish. That’s probably just not the way he likes to run. I’m going to sharpen him up a little for this race, try to open him up a little bit so we don’t have to ride him as hard, but we’re going to need somebody to soften up the speed so they can hopefully come back to us.”
City of Weston, winner of the Gallant Bob Stakes (G3) at Parx as a 3-year-old, was specifically claimed with the Smile, a part of Gulfstream’s nine-stake, $1.175 million Summit of Speed program, in mind. The Smile is also a designated Breeders’ Cup Challenge Win and Your In race, guaranteeing the winner a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) at Keeneland in October. However, Walder said he also would like to stretch the horse out to longer-distanced races down the road, citing how well City of Weston ran in the seven-furlong Blue Heron.
“I really want to stretch this horse out. He’s bred top and bottom to go long. He’s by Holy Bull, and the mare’s sire (Souvenir Copy) won over a mile. I think that when he was younger, he was fast, but as he’s gotten older, sprinting may not be his thing. It’s relevant by the two seven-eighth races that he’s run in. When he ran that distance for us, he ran probably what was one of the better races of his career, and even the seven-furlong races that he ran earlier in the year for [former trainer Antonio Sano] were unbelievable. Although I claimed him with the Smile in mind, I also claimed him to stretch him out.”
City of Weston will be partnered with a new jockey in the Smile. Victor Espinoza, who recently captured the first Triple Crown sweep in 37 years aboard American Pharoah in the Belmont Stakes (G1), will be aboard when he travels from his California base to ride the Summit of Speed card in Hallandale.
“I just touched base with [agent] Brian Beach and Victor’s going to ride,” Walder said.
Azalea (G3) Next for Moment of Delight
Following a professional 1 ¾-length allowance victory at Gulfstream on June 13, Pinnacle Racing and Norman Stable’s Moment of Delight will target the Azalea Stakes (G3), one of four graded stakes on Gulfstream’s Summit of Speed program, according to trainer Bill Kaplan.
“She’ll run in the seven-furlong Azalea for 3-year-old fillies on the fifth [of July],” he confirmed.
The 3-year-old daughter of A. P. Warrior registered her first sophomore victory with that allowance score, returning to the form she displayed as a 2-year-old, when she debuted as a maiden with a dominant 4 ½ length score last August before going on to finish second in three straight stakes, including both the Susan’s Girl and My Dear Girl divisions of the Florida Sire Stakes (FSS) series. Her June 13 start was just her second of 2015 and her first in almost three months, having not run since tiring to fifth in her seasonal debut on March 29, the first off-the-board finish of her eight-race career.
“She came out of the race perfect,” Kaplan said. “She ran like I hoped and I expected. She showed more speed than she usually has, so that was a big plus, and her endurance was fantastic. Everything about the race was really good for her first race back. I think she’ll move up from there.”