Citrus Kid Returns, Purple Egg for Derby, Perfect Shirl on Comeback Trail
Citrus Kid Begins Comeback in Harlan’s Holiday
Golden Goose Enterprises, James Covello and Michael Imperio's 5-year-old Citrus Kid makes an ambitious return to competition from a 15-month layoff in Sunday’s $100,000 Harlan’s Holiday Stakes at Gulfstream Park with jockey Joe Rocco, Jr. aboard for trainer John Terranova.
A son of Lemon Drop Kid, Citrus Kid made his last nine starts on turf during the 2010-11 seasons, placing in Graded stakes and finishing a close-up fourth in the Hollywood Derby (G1) when beaten less than a length for it all. He won allowance races at Gulfstream and Keeneland during that time.
“We’ve been looking for a spot to bring him back,” said Terranova Friday morning from Palm Meadows. “We had him entered in the Tropical Park Turf (G3) at Calder (Nov. 30), but the course there got a little rough at the end of the meet, so we scratched.
“This may not be the ideal spot, but he needs to get going again. He has run well on dirt and won the Dover Stakes (Delaware Park) as a 2-year-old, and he trains fantastic on dirt. More than likely he’ll end up back on turf in the bigger races here later in the season.”
Citrus Kid also finished third on dirt in the Remsen Stakes (G2) at Aqueduct after the Dover victory before switching to turf the next summer at Saratoga. The Harlan’s Holiday will mark his first start since finishing second in the PTHA President’s Cup at Parx on Sept. 17, 2011.
“We stopped on him because of a series of minor problems that took time,” said Terranova. “We turned him out for a while. He never had a problem that required surgery, but we had to stop on him a couple of times as we tried to bring him back. He’s a neat old class horse and we’re looking forward to getting him going again.”
Purple Egg Pointed to Gulfstream Park Derby
When Purple Egg couldn’t even handle participating in the post parade and was scratched twice at Monmouth Park last summer, it would have been difficult to believe that he would go on to become a major contender for the $100,000 Gulfstream Park Derby on Jan. 1.
Some might have said that trainer Jane Cibelli got what she paid for with the $22,000 yearling purchase.
In the post parade for his debut, the well-bred son of Lion Heart acted up and unseated his rider.
“He had schooled in the paddock; he schooled with a pony…I have my own pony. He’d done everything right,” Cibelli said. “But when we handed him off to the pony in the post parade, he just lost it and dropped the rider.”
Writing it off as first-race jitters, Cibelli went back to schooling Purple Egg before dropping him back into the Monmouth entry box. Unfortunately, he once again acted up in the post parade and dropped his rider again, prompting his trainer to make a difficult decision.
“It broke my heart to geld him,” Cibelli said. “But I don’t think he would have made it as a colt.”
Gelding Purple Egg proved to be the right decision, as evidenced by three straight impressive victories to launch a now very promising career. Cibelli wasn’t exactly surprised by Purple Egg’s performance once he finally made it to the starting gate.
“The first time I saw this horse gallop, I said, ‘What a stride!’ He did things so easily,” said Cibelli, recalling his early training at Tampa Bay Downs last season. “When I watched him gallop, I said, ‘His stride is about twice as long as everybody else’s.’”
That physical talent was very much in evidence when he captured his debut at Monmouth on Aug. 23 by nearly five lengths. He came right back to handily win an entry-level allowance race at Parx by nearly seven lengths. Purple Egg was tested in the $75,000 Inaugural at Tampa Bay on Dec. 1, and he came through with a gutsy off-the-place victory over multiple stakes-winner Brave Dave by a length.
“It certainly was his toughest race. His first two races came somewhat easily to him. (Brave Dave) had already shown that he was accomplished. When they ran the first quarter in 23 (seconds), I honestly didn’t think (Purple Egg) could win it at that point,” Cibelli said. “I said, ‘There’s no way he’s going to win that race. (Brave Dave) has got everything his way. He’s a speed horse and after getting the first quarter in 23, he’s going to have some kick left.’ My horse impressed me to beat that horse on his own terms.”
With a six-furlong stakes victory on Purple Egg’s resume, Cibelli is looking at the one-mile, one-turn Gulfstream Park Derby as a perfect opportunity to start the process of stretching out her gelding.
“I’ve always thought that he wanted to go long,” said Cibelli, the two-time Monmouth training titlist who has divisions at both Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs.
Perfect Shirl on Comeback Trail for Attfield
Charles Fipke’s 5-year-old Kentucky homebred mare Perfect Shirl, upset winner of the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) at Churchill Downs in 2011, made only one start after that when finishing a disappointing eighth as the favorite in the $100,000 The Very One Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 25 this year.
“She got injured after that race, a condylar fracture in her right foreleg,” said veteran horseman Roger Attfield from his winter headquarters at Payson Park Friday morning. Attfield was inducted into the Saratoga Hall of Fame this summer.
“They put three screws in the leg. I had hoped to get her back to the Breeders’ Cup again this year (Santa Anita), but I just ran out of time. So then I gave her even more time. She’s coming along well now, jogging and galloping. Hopefully, we’ll get her back to racing here sometime in February or March.”
More immediately, Attfield has a top turf stakes performer that may see action over the Gulfstream course in next Saturday’s (Dec. 22) $75,000 El Prado Stakes at one mile. Robert Harvey’s 5-year-old Canadian homebred gelding Hollinger will likely be one of the favorites if he starts following a game runner-up finish in the Tropical Park Turf (G3) at Calder on Nov. 30.
“I’m looking to run him right now. He’s been unlucky a time or two this season,” said Attfield, referring to the fact that that the roan/gray son of Black Minnaloushe has finished second four times in eight starts this year with no wins and only one trip to the winners’ circle in two years.
Two of those runner-up efforts came in stakes over the Gulfstream course in January when he finished a close-up third in the Ft. Lauderdale Stakes (G3) and was moved up to second on a disqualification, and then a tough loss when second by a half-length behind Get Stormy in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1) in February, his major goal this winter again if all goes well.