HALLANDALE BEACH, FL– The Saffie Joseph, Jr. trained Saraguaro has faced stiff competition in his six-race career, such that his one-win record does not paint a clear enough picture of how well the 3-year-old colt has run. Fresh off a dominant maiden-breaking score on July 17, the son of Express Tour will look to prove himself on a big stage in the $150,000 Unbridled division of the Florida Sire Stakes Saturday at Gulfstream Park.
“We’re going into the race as confident as we could be,” Joseph said.
A quick glance at Saraguaro’s past performances make it obvious that the chestnut colt has run with some of the best. In his career debut last September, he showed he was looking for more ground when finishing a late-closing fourth at six furlongs. He finished just behind the Marcus Vitali-trained Bluegrass Singer, who has since won a pair of stakes, including Gulfstream’s Mucho Macho Man. Saraguaro’s connections thought enough of him to run him in the $350,000 In Reality division of the Sire Stakes next time out; he finished fifth over a surface labeled as “good” to three-time stakes winner Sing Praises. In his next start, he was forced to contend with Juan and Bina. That colt was most recently third in the Carry Back Stakes (G3) on July 5.
The poor luck only escalated. In a 1 1/16-mile maiden contest on Dec. 23, a green Royal Squeeze collided with Saraguaro, causing the colt to fall. He emerged from the incident unscathed, and he ran his best race to date six weeks later on Feb. 7 with the addition of blinkers when finishing second to eventual Blue Grass (G1) runner-up and Kentucky Derby fifth-place finisher Danzig Moon. But after that, Joseph said the colt did not seem himself. He decided to give him some time off; Saraguaro did not race again for five months.
“When he fell, he was alright, and then he came back and ran a good race, but after that, he wasn’t 100 percent,” Joseph said.“Everything x-rayed clean, but we just decided to back off of him because he was a nice horse. He’s come back good now.”
Indeed he has. Off the layoff, the chestnut got his elusive maiden victory when he coasted home by more than five lengths on July 17. After taking over at the 3/8 pole, he strode off easily and was wrapped up late, producing a visually impressive performance.
“He ran a good race,” Joseph said.“On paper, it wasn’t a tough race, but it was ideal for him coming off a layoff. It was like a good work for him. He won it as good as we could have wanted him to, and he galloped out really well.”
Now, it’s back to stakes competition, where Joseph hopes Saraguaro can really begin to fulfill the promise he has shown since he first walked through his shedrow.
“We always thought a lot of him,” he said. “He came out of [his last race] super. He breezed twice. He had an easy breeze the first time and he breezed really good the other day.”
A trio of Stanley Gold trainees will join Saraguaro in the Unbridled: Sing Praises, Southern Barbecue and Hear That Tune. All three colts contested the Florida Sire Stakes as 2-year-olds, with Sing Praises, a son of Hear No Evil, sweeping two of the three legs in 2014 – the Dr. Fager and Affirmed divisions – before getting a well deserved vacation at the end of his freshman season. When returning off a seven-month layoff in the June 7 Big Cypress Handicap, the colt encountered trouble en route to a fifth-place finish, but he has trained sharply since. He breezed five furlongs in a bullet 57.82 seconds on July 29.
“You’ve got to throw out his first race,” Gold said. “His first race was a big disappointment, but the horse broke to the outside and got hit by another horse. [Jockey Edgard Zayas] had to pull him to the inside and the horse grabbed his quarter. He didn’t come back in the best shape. He was wrenched from him pulling him. But he’s 100 percent right now.”
Southern Barbecue has been a later developing colt. A full sibling to multiple Grade 1 winner Jackson Bend, who swept the Florida Sire Stakes series in 2009, Southern Barbecue took four starts to break his maiden before finishing 11th in the In Reality division last October. He would not return until the following May, but he surprised Gold with his fitness level when drawing off to a 1 ¼-length victory in a mile allowance on May 10. The leggy chestnut would then finish third, ahead of Sing Praises, in the Big Cypress before checking in fourth in the Carry Back Stakes (G3) on July 5.
“This horse, when he puts it all together, he runs big,” Gold said.“In the last two races, the overnight handicap was six furlongs, which was too short and he was coming on; the last race was the graded stake, and he was coming on and finished fourth. We know he wants to go longer than six furlongs. I’d rather have him run over seven (furlongs), but the race is seven. If he runs to his works, he’s going to be tough.”
Hear That Tune rounds out the trio. Like Sing Praises a son of Hear No Evil, the bay colt enters the Unbridled off a strong allowance victory on July 11 at the seven-furlong distance that saw him earn a 95 Beyer, the highest of the field.
The Bill Kaplan-trained Yourdreamsormine will make his stakes debut in the Unbridled off a second-place finish in a $50,000 optional claimer in July 24. Owned by Ione Elkins, the son of Mr. Sekiguchi showed improvement when adding blinkers in the race; he will continue to use that equipment Saturday.
“His last race was a great race. He can compete,” Kaplan said. “The blinkers have helped him show more speed. He had a habit early of lagging, but he’s doing better now.”
Trainer Kathleen O’Connell sends out a pair in the Unbridled. Wicked Rascal, a son of West Acre, has won two in a row, most recently topping fellow Unbridled entrant and stablemate Niconellie in a $75,000 optional claimer on June 27. The only loss of Wicked Rascal’s career came at the hands of Sing Praises in last July’s Birdonthewire Stakes. Both horses will be stretching out to seven-eighths for the first time.
Maiden Wildcatter’s Gold will take on stakes competition with just one start under his belt. The Ralph Nicks trainee finished second when favored in his career debut on the grass on July 17 and may have been the winner had he not been bumped sideways at the 1/8 pole. Recent maiden winner Focus On Me romped by more than seven lengths in his last start on July 1; the Alejandro Maymo-trained Sparky Bee completes the field.
Versatile Rizwan Returns to Dirt in Jackson Bend
After Vegso Racing Stable’s Rizwan finished a narrow second in his dirt debut in March, trainer Phil Gleaves kept it in the back of his mind. With four months before the August 8 Florida Sire Stakes, Gleaves thought his versatile colt might be a good fit for one of the program’s main track contests.
More than 20 weeks have passed, and Rizwan has since won or placed in four turf stakes, but Gleaves is following through on his idea. Rizwan will give the dirt another try in Saturday’s $75,000 Jackson Bend Stakes on the Florida Sire Stakes undercard.
“I’d been looking for an opportunity to run him back on the dirt, and this is it,” Gleaves said. “I thought about running in the Eight Miles East (another of the seven stakes on Gulfstream’s Saturday card, on turf), and I nominated him for that as well, but after looking at the field for that, I thought the best race to go in for him right now was the [Jackson Bend]. We’ll see how he does at the seven-eighths distance, but I’m looking for a big race from him.”
Rizwan has gained popularity for his wide, recognizable blaze and his never-say-die attitude. The chestnut won four consecutive starts over Gulfstream’s turf course between February and May, his biggest win coming in the English Channel Stakes on May 2. The colt also finished a respectable third in the 1 ½-mile Raymond Earl Handicap against older horses before checking in a troubled fifth in June’s King Cugat Handicap. In his most recent start, he finished a game second to the multiple stakes-winning My Point Exactly on July 25; in an exciting finish, the two colts dueled through the stretch together, with My Point Exactly hitting the wire just a head in front.
“We loved his race,” Gleaves said. “It was a very game race. It was great to see him run like that after his previous race, when he got stuck on the outside. He and My Point Exactly were nip and tuck from the quarter pole. It was a great race, and the other horse just got us at the wire. Both horses ran a super race. He came out of the race very well.”
“He just loves life,” he added. “I was just looking at him getting his bath, and he just loves life. He loves to train, loves to run. He’s just a neat horse to be around.”
The stakes-winning filly Naval Command will face males for the first time in the Jackson Bend. The daughter of Midshipman won three of her first four starts – the only loss being a second in last July’s Cassidy Stakes – before finishing fifth behind Peace and War in the Alcibiades (G1) at Keeneland on Oct. 3. Off for the following nine months, the Bill Kaplan trainee made her comeback race in the Princess Rooney (G2) on July 5, a Win and You’re In race for the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. When chasing the pace, the filly finished sixth behind the multiple graded stakes-winning Merry Meadow; Kaplan believes she will be better second start off the extended time off.
“She’s been doing so good that I have to run her,” Kaplan said.“She’s doing really good. I don’t think [running against males] will be a problem. It’s a Florida-bred race, so it’s still not completely open. And she’s very fast. She’ll probably be out in front of everybody.”
“It was a very tough spot last time,” he added. “It was a spot that I thought we could compete in, but it worked out where we chased a little bit and that compromised her a little bit. But I think she’s got a real good shot in this race.”
The Saffie Joseph, Jr.-trained Cool Man Walkin will return from more than a three-month layoff in the Jackson Bend. The son of Cool Coal Man has not run since the Tarpon Handicap in April. He previously finished third behind the Todd Pletcher trained duo of Stanford and Blame Jim in a February allowance.
“He’s had some good form. We breezed him for the first time in blinkers with Saraguaro the other day, and it was the best he’s ever breezed in his life. The biggest concern with him is that he doesn’t handle the heat too well, and it’s hot in the summer. That’s the biggest negative for him.”
Another returning from a layoff is the Chad Stewart-trained Catalina Red. A son of Munnings, the chestnut colt won both the Inaugural and Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs before finishing fifth in the Sam F. Davis (G3). He won his only previous start at the seven-furlong distance.
Colormepompom and Aces for John both enter the Jackson Bend off Gulfstream allowance wins. The field is rounded out by the Kathleen O’Connell duo of Looks Good and Big Awesome.