Bahamian Squall & Swagger Jack Clash in Sprint Championship
Donald Dizney’s 4-year-old Bahamian Squall and Silverton Hill LLC’s 5-year-old Swagger Jack have each posted impressive victories at the meet and will face off for the first time in a field of eight older horses drawn for Saturday’s $150,000 Gulfstream Sprint Championship (G3) at seven furlongs.
Regular jockey Luis Saez will be back aboard Bahamian Squall for trainer David Fawkes. The Florida homebred son of Gone West won the Sunshine State Stakes here early in the meet by 3 ½ lengths over Fort Loudon and finished second by three-quarters of a length last out in the $150,000 Sunshine Millions Sprint on Jan. 29, both races restricted to Florida-breds.
Bahamian Squall is a half-brother to Apriority, who went on to rank among the nation’s top sprinters in 2011 after winning the Mr. Prospector Stakes (G3) here for Fawkes. “We took the opportunity to keep him with Florida-breds for his last three races because the right opportunities were there at the right time, but I’m confident that he can be very competitive in open stakes now.
“I also think the seven-eighths helps him as it did with Apriority. He had some excuse for getting beat in his last race. I’m not so sure he was getting a hold of the track (sloppy) and he dropped back a little too far early in the race. It took him awhile to get going and when he did finally it was a little too late, although a good effort “
Jockey Javier Castellano rides Swagger Jack for trainer Marty Wolfson as he turns back a furlong from a pair of impressive allowance scores at a mile here, most recently on Jan. 17. The son of Smart Strike came to Wolfson over the summer after racing in Kentucky, Indiana and Virginia earlier in the season.
“Swagger Jack is just doing so well right now,” said Wolfson. “I'd rather the race was a mile for him, but I think he’ll do fine at seven-eighths.
Trainer Todd Pletcher has a contender for most of the big races at Gulfstream and sends out E. Paul Robsham’s 5-year-old Travelin Man with plenty of experience over the track with four wins and a second in five starts here. He is coming off the bench for his first start since losing a nose decision in the Teddy Drone Stakes at Monmouth Park on July 29.
Jockey John Velazquez rides Travelin Man as he has in all but one of his 11 career starts. The Kentucky homebred made his first three starts here early in 2011 as a 3-year-old, winning his debut, finishing second in the Hutcheson Stakes (G2) and winning the Swale Stakes (G2). He came back last winter for two more winning trips over the track in an allowance and the Sir Shackleton Stakes.
Another big name in the field Saturday is Jacks or Better Farm’s 4-year-old Fort Loudon who will be ridden by jockey Jose Lezcano for trainer Nick Zito. The Florida homebred by Awesome of Course was a star 2-year-old at Calder in 2011 and won the Carry Back Stakes (G2) last summer there for trainer Stanley Gold before being sent to Zito in New York.
Fort Loudon has failed to find the winners’ circle in six starts since the Carry Back, but ran a big race to finish second in the Kings Bishop Stakes (G2) at Saratoga and second in the Ack Ack Handicap (G3) at Churchill Downs before his runner-up effort behind Bahamian Squall in the Sunshine State. In one more start since then he finished a well-beaten third behind Ron the Greek trying two turns again in the Sunshine Millions Classic on Jan. 19.
Completing the field for the Sprint Championship are George Kerr’s Good Morning Diva, Corey Lanerie; Samuel H. Rogers, Jr.’s Close It Out, Manoel Cruz; Lashmi Rattan’s Fair Whit, J.L. Alvarez; and Jim Atwell’s Big Grandpa, Joe Rocco, Jr.