During the past few winters at Gulfstream Park, trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. has become no stranger to the winner’s circle on the track’s biggest days.
The 51-year-old conditioner won the Florida Derby (G1) in 2008 with eventual Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness (G1) winner Big Brown and has captured the Gulfstream Park Turf (G1) in each of the last two seasons with Kip Deville and Court Vision, respectively.
This winter, Dutrow appears loaded for bear yet again.
Perhaps his most well-known horse is Boys At Tosconova, a 2-year-old colt by Officer who exits a second-place finish behind Uncle Mo in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). The winner of the Hopeful (G1) this summer at Saratoga, Boys At Tosconova has had one workout – a five-furlong breeze in 1:04 on Dec. 9 – over the local strip since arriving in South Florida.
“We’re looking at the one-turn race at the end of January for him,” Dutrow said, referring to the Holy Bull (G3) on Jan. 30. “Keeping him here for the Florida Derby (on April 3) is something I think we would want to do.”
While Boys At Tosconova has taken the majority of the spotlight in his stable, Dutrow has another promising juvenile in Mountain Town. Second in the Champagne (G1) at Belmont on Oct. 9 and third last out in the Remsen (G2) at Aqueduct, Mountain Town has posted a pair of local works this month in preparation for his 3-year-old debut.
“Mountain Town will most likely go to the (Feb. 26) Fountain of Youth (G2),” Dutrow said. “Both he and Boys At Tosconova are doing well at this point.”
On the filly side of things, Dutrow said he’s looking forward to bringing this year’s Davona Dale (G2) winner and Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) runner-up Amen Hallelujah back to the races Jan. 29 in the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint.
Amen Hallelujah has been away from the races since a second-place finish in the Acorn (G1) on the Belmont Stakes undercard, but the 3-year-old daughter of Montbrook has been training forwardly over the Gulfstream main track for nearly a month since shipping down from Aqueduct.
RESCUE SQUAD TARGETS GULFSTREAM TURF STAKES
Coming off arguably the best performance of his career, Stuart S. Janney, III and Phipps Stable’s Rescue Squad was in prime position to be a major factor in the W.L. McKnight Handicap (G3) at Calder Race Course on Dec. 18.
That was until the skies opened.
After hours of heavy rain forced the 12-furlong turf event to the main track, trainer Shug McGaughey decided to scratch Rescue Squad and wait for another day.
According to the Hall of Fame trainer, that day will likely come in either the Gulfstream Park Turf (G1) at 1-1/8 miles on Feb. 5 or the Mac Diarmida Handicap (G2) at 1-3/8 miles on Feb. 19.
“I think we’d like to keep him at these longer distances from now on,” said McGaughey of Rescue Squad, a 4-year-old gelding by Dynaformer out of the Seeking the Gold mare Search Party. “I would say his last race was probably the best of his career to this point.”
Rescue Squad’s most recent effort was a runner-up finish in the Red Smith Handicap (G2), run at 1-3/8 miles over a turf course labeled soft, at Aqueduct on Nov. 6. In the seven-horse field, he sat sixth through the majority of the race behind dawdling fractions but put in a strong stretch rally to finish second, just a length behind the winner.
Rescue Squad, who has competed at distances from eight to 11 furlongs and boasts a career record of 2-3-4 from 14 lifetime starts, wore blinkers for the first time in the Red Smith.
“I think all three things worked in his favor – the soft turf, the longer distance, and the blinkers,” McGaughey said.
Another McGaughey runner likely to take on stakes competition at Gulfstream this winter is Phipps Stable’s Gone Astray. According to his trainer, the multiple Grade 2-winning 4-year-old will likely be pointed to the Hal’s Hope (G3) on Jan. 8.
“He’s had a couple of breezes over the track since he’s been down here and seems to be doing very well,” McGaughey said.
Gone Astray was last seen at the races on Nov. 20 at Monmouth Park, where he finished second in the Frisk Me Now Stakes.