Close It Out Looks for Pace in Sunshine State Sunday
Samuel H. Rogers, Jr.’s 4-year-old homebred gelding Close It Out is a confirmed closing sprinter and his connections will hope for a solid pace scenario in the early going of Sunday’s $100,000 Sunshine State Stakes at Gulfstream Park.
Jockey Manoel Cruz aboard in the seven-furlong test for Florida-breds.
“We got the fast pace up front that he needed in his last race,” said veteran trainer Steve Towne, referring to Close It Out’s rally from last of 10 to win the $125,000 Jack Dudley Handicap by a neck at Calder on Florida Million Day, Nov. 10.
“That race was at six furlongs and this race is going seven, which I prefer, but at the same time, Gulfstream is usually a little more speed-favoring than Calder. I lose (Jose) Lezcano to ride Fort Loudon, but I’ve got (Manoel) Cruz, who has ridden him before and knows him.”
Close It Out faces eight rival 3-year-olds and up with Donald Dizney’s 3-year-old Bahamian Squall and Jacks or Better Farm’s 3-year-old Fort Loudon among those he will need to get past. Jockey Luis Saez retains the mount on Bahamian Squall for trainer David Fawkes after he lost a neck decision to finish second behind Close It Out in the Jack Dudley Sprint after leading by a length at the eighth pole.
A homebred son of Gone West, Bahamian Squall is a half-brother to Dizney’s top-class sprinter Apriority, winner of the Mr. Prospector Stakes (G3) here and runner-up in the Grade 1 Carter Handicap at Aqueduct early in 2012 for Fawkes. Bahamian Squall won his career debut here in mid-February.
“He’s a really nice colt and has matured a lot from last year,” said Fawkes. “I expect him to run a really good race.”
Fort Loudon is a homebred son of Awesome of Course now trained by Nick Zito after being developed and trained by Jacks or Better’s Calder-based trainer Stanley Gold through his victory in the $150,000 Carry Back Stakes (G2) on July 7. The victory was his third straight in a stakes after being tried going a distance at Gulfstream earlier in the season, including a sixth-place try behind Take Charge Indy in the Florida Derby (G1).
Another homebred from Fred Brei’s highly-successful Jacks or Better operation went through a similar pattern with Gold developing future star Jackson Bend to be the leading 2-year-old at Calder in 2009 and going on to be a major player on the national stage with Zito as a 3-year-old and later in his career.
Fort Loudon won the three ‘open’ divisions of the Florida Stallion Stakes series last year and finished seventh of 13 behind Hansen and Union Rags in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Churchill Downs to complete his 2-year-old campaign.
Fort Loudon has made four starts for Zito, including a huge performance when second by a half-length in the seven-furlong King’s Bishop Stakes (G1) on Travers Day in late August at Saratoga and a runner-up finish last out in the Ack Ack Handicap (G3) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 2.
Also certain to draw solid support will be Harold Queen’s 4-year-old gelding Little Drama with jockey J.L. Castanon named to ride for trainer Michael Mareina. The homebred son of Burning Roma was developed at Calder by trainer David Fawkes before being transferred this summer to Mareina in New York. He made four starts since then, finishing a good fourth in the Vosburgh Stakes (G1) at Belmont in late September and second last out in the Bold Ruler Handicap (G3) on Oct. 27.
Completing the field for the Sunshine Stare are Kramer Stable’s Thank U Philippe, Joel Rosario; Billy, Donna and Justin Hayes, Captain Genius, Jermaine Bridgmohan; Bluestone Thoroughbreds’ Black Diamond Cat, Juan Leyva; Thomas Shank ans Stan Young’s Good Lord, Gabriel Saez; and Jessica Colon’s Imperial Czar, Orlando Bocachica.