Donn Handicap On Ron The Greek's Comeback Trail
The Todd Pletcher-trained Rule isn’t the only 2010 Kentucky Derby prospect making his second start back from an almost 10-month layoff in Saturday’s $500,000 Donn Handicap (G1).
Ron the Greek, whose 2010 campaign was cut short last March with a knee injury, showed considerable promise in his return to the races at Gulfstream on Jan 8. The stretch-running 4-year-old, who was unraced since finishing sixth in the Louisiana Derby, made a strong run to finish second behind Our Dark Knight after trailing the nine-horse field in the mile allowance race.
“I was really pleased with his race. I was just hoping to get a good race out of him,” said trainer Tom Albertrani Thursday morning at Gulfstream’s Palm Meadows training center. “I loved the way he finished that day, and two turns is definitely going to help him for the next race. We’re coming back a little quick, but we’ve been aiming at the Donn for a long time now, so we’re going to take our chance and see how he does.”
Formerly trained by Tom Amoss for owner/breeder Jack Hammer, the son of Full Mandate has impressed Albertrani since returning to training.
“He came back in great condition. The first race was a really good start. Hopefully, there are good things to come with him this year,” said Albertrani, whose Florida-bred colt will be ridden by Jose Lezcano. “He’s a big scopey horse. He had a good 3-year-old campaign; he won three out of his six races and looked like a horse on the Derby trail. He’s definitely a horse that wants a mile-and-a-quarter, so I think maybe if he stayed healthy he would have been a contender in there. As an older horse, this could be a good year for him.”
Bush Expects Improvement From Get Stormy in Gulfstream Turf
A month ago, Sullimar Stable’s Get Stormy entered Gulfstream Park’s Fort Lauderdale (G3) off one of the worst races of his life – a last place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1).
Trainer Tom Bush said he couldn’t come up with a reason for the poor performance.
Following an equally disappointing eighth-place finish in the Fort Lauderdale, Bush feels he has an explanation as he points his multiple Grade 2-winning 5-year-old to Saturday’s Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf (G1).
“I truly do think he needed his last race,” Bush said. “He went into that race a little heavy, a little chunky.”
In the nearly four weeks since Get Stormy’s last race, Bush says he’s seen a distinct improvement.
“I was really happy to be able to get him back breezing on the turf,” he said. “Before his last race he was down here about a month and I wasn’t able to get him on the turf. He just doesn’t put as much into his works on the dirt. He gets a lot more out of his turf works.”
Before his sub-par Breeders’ Cup effort, Get Stormy had a career year in 2010.
The son of Stormy Atlantic began the year by dominating the Elkwood Stakes at Monmouth Park before going on to capture both the Fourstardave (G2) and Bernard Baruch (G2) at Saratoga.
Back-to-back tries against Grade 1 company to end 2010 resulted in a fourth-place finish behind two-time Eclipse Award winner Gio Ponti in the Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) at Keeneland and his last-place effort at Churchill Downs.
On Saturday, Get Stormy will break from the rail as he takes on a field of eight including Little Mike who wired the field in the Fort Lauderdale last out. Smart Bid (third) and Battle of Hastings (sixth) also exit the same race.
“There looks like there are a couple of other speeds in there so it will definitely be a jockey’s race,” Bush said. “He’s doing plenty well enough and has had two really exceptionally good works on the turf so hopefully that’s enough to make a difference.”
Saturday Allowance Likely Fountain of Youth Tune-Up
Saturday’s 11-race program highlighted by three Graded stakes events on Donn Handicap Day at Gulfstream Park will also offer several attractive allowance features earlier in the afternoon, notably the third race for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles that almost certainly will yield a contender or two for the $400,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) to be run over the track and distance on Sat., Feb. 26.
G. Watts Humphrey, Jr.’s homebred Shadow Warrior will be among the choices in the field of six with jockey Javier Castellano aboard for trainer Rusty Arnold. The son of A.P. Indy is out of Grade 1 winner Victory Ride and has run well in all three of his starts, finishing third last out in a one-turn, one-mile race over the track on Jan. 17 as the 2-to-1 favorite.
In two starts as a 3-year-old Shadow Warrior finished fourth in his debut going about seven furlongs at Keeneland on Oct. 21 when beaten only three-quarters of a length for it all and broke his maiden next out going a mile at Churchill Downs on Nov. 19 by three lengths.
Owner John Oxley has a top 3-year-old filly prospect in Dancinginherdreams with trainer John Ward and also a promising young colt in Strike Oil with trainer Mark Casse entered in Saturday’s ‘a other than’ allowance with jockey Rajiv Maragh named to ride.
A son of Forest Wildcat, Strike Oil was a $190,000 OBS March 2-year-old purchase and makes his season debut after three starts last year at Woodbine. After fifth-place tries in a maiden special and the $250,000 Cup and Saucer Stakes in mid-October he broke his maiden winning the nine-furlong Coronation Futurity on Nov. 7 when rallying from 10th-place early in the race over the Polytrack surface.
Trainer Ken McPeek has an intriguing prospect in the race with Magdalena Racing’s Casper’s Touch to be ridden by Julien Leparoux. The son of Touch Gold was a $50,000 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky yearling purchase and finished third in the ‘Listed’ Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot in June after a fourth-place debut at Keeneland. Casper’s Touch didn’t run again until breaking his maiden going a mile at Churchill on Nov. 19.
Completing the field are Matt Conway and partners’ Ed Grayling, Paco Lopez; Janis Whitham’s Fort Larned, Jermaine Bridgmohan; and Michael Lauffer and W.D. Cubbedge’s Shackleford, J.L. Castanon.
The seventh race on Saturday also is an ‘a other than’ allowance for 3-year-olds, but carded for one-mile on turf with a field of 11 and Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s homebred Cozy Kitten the probable favorite with Elvis Trujillo named to ride for leading Gulfstream trainer Wesley Ward.
Cozy Kitten is a son of the Ramseys’ 2004 Eclipse champion turf horse Kitten’s Joy and was impressive in two starts last year. After winning his debut on turf at Monmouth Park on Sept. 4 with a big stretch charge he came back with a strong runner-up effort behind highly-regarded Rogue Romance in the Bourbon Stakes (G3) over the Keeneland course on Oct. 10.
Another contender in the field with stakes experience is Viking Farms Limited Moonshine Mullin and J.L. Castanon to ride for trainer Reade Baker. The son of Albert the Great made three starts at Woodbine last year, breaking his maiden in his second start on turf and finishing second last out in the $150,000 Display Stakes run on Polytrack on Nov. 28.