Triple Crown Champion Jockey Victor Espinoza to Ride Bluegrass Singer
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Suzanne Stables’ Barbados is set for a long-awaited return to action and Gulfstream Park in Sunday’s $150,000 Carry Back Stakes (G3) on the $1.175 million Summit of Speed program of nine stakes, including four graded events.
When last seen at Gulfstream Park last January, the son of Speightstown captured his third straight race with a triumph in the seven-furlong Hutcheson Stakes (G3) that stamped him as an exciting 3-year-old prospect. Unfortunately, Barbados was sent to the sidelines soon after by a knee chip in his left front leg that required arthroscopic surgery.
“He went through the surgery procedure really well. Dr. (Larry) Bramlage was very pleased with the way the chip came out and how the procedure went. I breathed a sigh of relief when he was pleased with it,” trainer Michael Tomlinson said. “He had some time off at WinStar Farm for about 90 days. We brought him back in and spent the last 2 ½ months getting him ready. He’s responded very well.”
Prior to the injury-imposed hiatus, Tomlinson was seriously contemplating a two-turn stretch-out in the Fountain of Youth (G2) with an eye toward the Florida Derby (G1) and the Kentucky Derby (G1)
“Anytime you have high hopes for a horse like him you can’t help but start getting Derby Fever. It was disappointing, but not so much about the Derby – at that time we didn’t know if he’d get the two turns, and we still don’t, but the plans are to find out,” Tomlinson said. “We were let down simply because any small trainer like myself looks forward to having those better horses. When you have to put one on hold for a while, it really took the wind out of your sails.”
Barbados, who is rated as the 9-5 morning-line favorite in a Carry Back field of 10, launched his career with a pair of turf starts at Kentucky Downs last fall before graduating by five lengths on a sloppy main track at Keeneland on Oct. 16. The Kentucky-bred was subsequently purchased at auction for $340,000 by his current connections and shipped to Gulfstream, where he won at first asking in the six-furlong Spectacular Bid by three lengths on Jan. 3. Back in 21 days, Barbados stretched out to seven furlongs impressively in the Hutcheson.
Coming off a five-month layoff, Barbados will be asked to negotiate seven furlongs again against a strong group of 3-year-olds in the Carry Back.
“I’m a little concerned about the seven furlongs for his first race back. That distance is a little more testing than three-quarters is. It’s a concern,” Tomlinson said. “There really wasn’t anything up here for him except allowance races with a small pot. I’d really hate to put him out there on the racetrack for that type of monetary reward.”
Luis Saez, who rode Barbados to victory in the Spectacular Bid and Hutcheson, is scheduled to make the trip from New York to ride on the Summit of Speed program.
Crossed Sabres Farm’s Bluegrass Singer, also a stakes winner at Gulfstream during the Championship Meet, has shipped from Monmouth Park to compete in the Carry Back. The Marcus Vitali-trained gelding captured the Mucho Macho Man Stakes at Gulfstream on Jan. 3 before contesting the Holy Bull (third), Fountain of Youth (sixth) and the Swale (fourth), all Grade 2 stakes. The son of Bluegrass Cat returned to winning form in the Parx Derby on May 2 before running on turf at Pimlico and Monmouth in his last two starts.
“His last two starts were kind of preps to get him back on the dirt. I like the turf-to-dirt angle,” said Vitali, whose gelding is rated at 6-1 in the morning line. “He’s doing well right now and training good.”
Victor Espinoza, who rode American Pharoah to a sweep of the 2015 Triple Crown, has accepted the mount aboard Bluegrass Singer. The three-time Kentucky Derby-winning jockey will sign free commemorative posters prior to Sunday’s program before riding in six races on the 12-race program that is set to get underway at 12:30 p.m.
The Carry Back has also attracted stakes winners A M Milky Way and My Point Exactly. David Davis’ A M Milky Way, won the Golden Circle Stakes at Prairie Meadows on May1 and is coming off a 5 ½-length allowance score at Canterbury. Trainer Karl Broberg has named Jamie Theriot to ride his Texas-bred trainee. Bill Kaplan-trained My Point Exactly has won two turf stakes, including the King Cugat handicap at Gulfstream on June 20. Juan Leyva has the return mount aboard the gelding owned by Pinnacle Racing Stables, Norman, Justice and Hendricks.
Juan and Bina, Rod McLeod, Royal Squeeze, Southern Barbecue, Grand Bili and Sonofaderbywinner round out the field.