By Ed Gray Photo Credit: Coglianese Photos
Faces Mucho Macho Man and Jackson Bend in 2012 Debut
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Racing in an era marked by equine specialization and carefully spaced schedules, Tackleberry is a throwback to the days when horses were far more adaptive to a wide variety of challenges.
Recognizing his horse’s rare versatility, owner/trainer Luis Olivares has rejected today’s conventional training wisdom to establish Tackleberry as a fan favorite at Gulfstream Park, where he will make his 2012 debut on Saturday.
“One of the main reasons I’m running the horse here is because people here love this horse. People love to see this horse race,” said Olivares, who will saddle Tackleberry in the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2). “I could have waited for another race, but people want to see him run.”
His victory in last year’s Gulfstream Park Handicap put the finishing touches on a most exciting three-stakes streak that won the hearts of local fans with his determination and ability to handle three different distances.
“Nobody did what he did last year, winning three stakes at three distances. He won at a mile and an eighth; he won at seven-eighths; and he won at a mile,” Olivares said. “He always tries to run and give it his best every time he runs. He’s a very honest horse.”
Riding a three-race winning streak at Calder, Tackleberry’s 2011 Gulfstream campaign got off to a rocky start with a fourth-place finish in the Hal’s Hope (G3), in which he bobbled at the start, set the pace and faltered late. Three weeks later, the son of Monarchos posted a front-running 2 ¼-length victory in the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Classic at 1 1/8 miles. With only two weeks rest, Tackleberry easily handled the cutback in distance to capture the seven-furlong Gulfstream Park Spring Championship (G2) by two lengths. A month later, the Florida-bred gelding posted a hard-fought front-running triumph in the Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2).
“When Javier (Santiago) was riding him, he told me one day, ‘When this horse warms up he looks like he’s dead, but as soon as they lock the doors in the gate, he’s a different horse. There’s steam coming out of him. You can feel it, the vibration. He’s breathing fire,’” Olivares said.
The Gulfstream Park Handicap score would be his last of the season that concluded with a fourth-place finish in the Charles Town Classic (G2) and a ninth in the Met Mile (G1) before being turned out for a much-deserved rest.
“On the farm, he got a little sick so it took a little bit longer to bring him back than I wanted, but he’s really healthy now. He’s training really well.” Olivares said.
Tackleberry will come off the sidelines to defend his 2011 victory against the likes of Mucho Macho Man, this year’s Florida Sunshine Millions Classic winner, and Jackson Bend, the Grade 1 stakes winner who captured the Hal’s Hope (G3) in his most recent start.
“All the races are tough. There’s not a stakes race that’s easy. Everybody wants to win,” said Olivares, whose gelding will be ridden for the first time by Rajiv Maragh. “Everyone brings their horses into the race to have them run good. Who wants to run a horse that finishes last?”
Olivares, who campaigned Grade 1 stakes winners Flying Pidgeon and Powder Break during the mid-80s, recognized a special quality in Tackleberry when he purchased him privately as a 2-year-old.
“When you look at him, you have to buy him,” said Olivares of Tackleberry, who was pulled out of a sale with a knee chip that was removed before being purchased.
It wasn’t long before Olivares realized that he had made a wise purchase.
“This first time I breezed him with (multiple-stakes winner Green Vegas), he breezed head and head with him in 46-and-2,” Olivares said. “It was a helluva move for a horse coming off the farm. I knew there was something there.”
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