HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Trainer Bill Kaplan’s reputation for possessing a keen eye for spotting bargains at 2-year-olds in training sales was only enhanced when Michael Bernard’s Danbury overcame adversity to capture his recent debut at Gulfstream Park.
Purchased for $25,000 at the Ocala Breeders’ April sale, Danbury eked out a neck victory in his July 5 debut, in which he lacked running room along the rail before being angled out three-wide by jockey Juan Leyva at the top of the stretch and surging late to overtake the pacesetter.
The son of Kantharos is slated to return to action at Gulfstream in Saturday’s $200,000 Dr. Fager Division, which will share top billing with the $200,000 Desert Vixen Division on the Florida Sire Stakes program that will feature seven stakes.
“He’s a very precocious horse. He has a lot of speed, but he’s not crazy. He’s rate-able. He’ll do whatever you want him to do,” said Kaplan, who saddled Seacliff for a Florida Sire Stakes sweep in 1995. “He ran a huge race last time. He only won by a neck, but he got stopped badly, had to circle around and regroup, and he still ran them down in the stretch.”
Juan Leyva has the mount on Danbury, who is scheduled to clash with eight rivals in the Dr. Fager, a six-furlong sprint for 2-year-old males sired by accredited stallions standing in Florida. Among his more formidable foes is Jacks or Better Farm’s duo of Brighton Lane and Fellowship.
“That’s double trouble there,” trainer Stanley Gold said. “We’ll have one that is close to the pace and one that isn’t close. Their styles aren’t going to get in each other’s way.”
Gold and Jacks or Better Farm have teamed for a record 16 victories in Florida Sire Stakes action, including series sweepers Jackson Bend (2009), Awesome Feather (2010) and Fort Loudon (2011)
Brighton Lane debuted at Gulfstream on May 29, when he stalked the early pace before kicking in through the stretch to capture a five-furlong sprint by a neck. The son of Hear No Evil is a full brother to Jackson Bend, a multiple Grade 1 stakes winner who earned $1.8 million.
“Brighton Lane is kind of the dark horse that they’re going to find out about. He ran the one time and he won and this horse hasn’t stepped back since,” Gold said. “He’s Jackson Bend’s full brother. He has the same running style. His head doesn’t move much. It’s just down and he grinds it out and comes on.”
Fellowship also scored at first asking, posting a dominating four-length victory at Gulfstream on May 7. The son of Awesome of Course returned to finish second in the $100,000 Birdonthewire Stakes on July 5, when he stalked pacesetting stablemate Silent Prayer before taking a brief lead in deep stretch, only to be caught by Francesco Blue.
“I took the blame for the finish,” Gold said. “I think they both (Fellowship and Silent Prayer) came up short and I didn’t do enough with them before the race.”
Eddie Castro has the mount on Brighton Lane, while Jesus Rios has the return mount on Fellowship.
George Kerr’s Li’l Meatball enters the Dr. Fager off a sharp nine-length victory at Gulfstream June 21. The David Braddy-trained gelding ran 4 ½ furlongs in 51.99 seconds while registering a front-running score. Braddy also entered Champion Equine LLC’s Mr. Kisses, who defeated $50,000 claiming company by 4 ¾ lengths in his second career start.
Kathy Machesky’s Dream of Me is the only horse in the field that has been victorious at six furlongs, having broken his maiden by 3 ¾ lengths July 26. The Anna Varsi-trained son of High Cotton set the pace throughout the race under Eduardo Nunez, who has the return mount Saturday.
Joker Racing’s Graphite Strike is the only maiden in the Dr. Fager field but merits a long look after finishing second behind Brighton Lane in his debut and turning in a runner-up finish in his second start behind Bullet Gone Astray, who came back to win the $100,000 Mountaineer Juvenile Stakes last Saturday.
Monarch Stables’ Flashing Light and Kenwood Racing’s Title Fight enter the Dr. Fager off debut triumphs in maiden claiming races.