Coffee Boy Bids To Improve On Last Start In Sunshine State
By Jack Will
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - While D’Funnybone will likely be a solid choice in Saturday’s $60,000 Sunshine State Stakes at Gulfstream Park, Gary Barber’s Coffee Boy beat him in their only previous meeting last summer in the $200,000 Carry Back Stakes (G2). Not only does Coffee Boy enter the Sunshine State with a race under his belt, D’Funnybone makes his first start since last summer at Saratoga.
“He (Coffee Boy) got very tired in his first start back,” said trainer Marty Wolfson Thursday morning from Calder, referring to the son of Yonaguska’s sixth-place finish behind Tackleberry in the Gulfstream Sprint Championship going seven furlongs in Feb. 12, his first race since the Carry Back on July 10.
“He should move forward from that race. He’s had four good works since then, but if D’Funnybone is on his game he’ll be tough. We beat him in the Carry Back, but Calder is a very tough place to ship into and run over that track.
“I still think Coffee Boy will be best when he goes around two turns, but this is a good spot to get him going. He just wasn’t moving right when I stopped on him after the Carry Back…nothing specific...but when I feel that way about one, I’d rather just turn them out for awhile. Then he went through a growing period and he’s a bigger, stronger horse now.”
Wolfson has several other stakes runners scheduled to run during the final weeks at Gulfstream before closing on Sun., Apr. 24, including Farnsworth Stables’ 6-year-old mare Cherokee Queen in the $60,000 South Beach Stakes at 7 ½ furlongs on turf to be run on Sat., Apr. 16.
A Kentucky-bred daughter of Cherokee Run, Cherokee Queen was a two-length winner of the Suwannee River Stakes (G3) over the course on Feb. 5 with Never Retreat second and Persuading third.. She came back to finish a close-up fourth last out in the Hillsborough Stakes (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs on Mar. 12.
Velazquez – Pletcher Team Win Big Over Weekend
The longtime, highly-successful team of trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey John Velazquez had a very big weekend at Gulfstream Park, despite the disappointing sixth-place finish of Stay Thirsty in the $1 million Florida Derby (G1) Sunday, as Pletcher sent out nine winners over the two days and Velazquez posted eight victories, seven as a team.
They combined for three Grade 2 victories, all three owned and bred by the E. Paul Robsham Stables, 4-year-old Awesome Maria in the Rampart Stakes and 3-year-old filly R Heat Lightning in the Gulfstream Park Oaks on Saturday and 3-year-old colt Travelin Man in the Swale Stakes on Sunday.
Velazquez remains atop the jockey standings for the meet with 64 wins, six more than Javier Castellano second with 58 and defending meet champion Paco Lopez third with 57. The top three are followed by Jose Lezcano fourth with 44, Julien Leparoux fifth at 43 and Rajiv Maragh sixth with 41 tallies.
All of the top six with the exception of Lopez will see only limited action during the last three weeks of the meet as they move on to ride at the Keeneland meet that opens Friday and/or Aqueduct while Lopez rides out the session before Monmouth Park opens next month. Other veterans remaining through the final weeks include Joe Bravo, Edgar Prado and Elvis Trujillo.
While Velazquez and Castellano will likely be overtaken in the standings by Lopez, Pletcher appears to have clinched an eighth consecutive Gulfstream meet championship with 47 victories and will be well represented through the final weeks while stable stars such as Uncle Mo, R Heat Lightning and others have shipped to New York and others to Kentucky.
Nick Canani ranks a distant second, 18 behind Pletcher with 25 victories, followed by David Fawkes having a strong meet third with 17 and Chad Brown fourth with 16. The victories of Dialed In in the Florida Derby and S.S. Stone in the Skip Away Stakes Sunday brought trainer Nick Zito into a tie for fifth in the standings with Wesley Ward at 15 apiece.