Gulfstream News: Hymn Book, Force Freeze, Pica Slew

Gulfstream News: Hymn Book, Force Freeze, Pica Slew


McGaughey Looks At Options for Donn Winner Hymn Book

Hymn Book’s emergence as a star in the handicap division can be credited to a surface switch from turf to dirt, but the 6-year-old gelding would never have had a chance to win Saturday’s $500,000 Donn Handicap (G1) at Gulfstream Park without one very important event early in his career.

“He wouldn’t have been any good if he wasn’t gelded,” said trainer Shug McGaughey, who made the call to geld the son of Arch following a poor debut on July 24, 2009.

Although there is no residual stud value attached to his nose triumph over Mission Impazible in the Donn, Hymn Book’s first graded victory in the first major stakes for older horses on the 2012 national calendar has McGaughey looking ahead to other lucrative engagements for his gelding.

“One of the things on my mind would be the Oaklawn Park Handicap (April 14),” said McGaughey, who reported that Stuart Janney III’s homebred came out of the Donn in great shape. “Hopefully, he’d be the kind of horse we can use in some of the races in New York.”

Hymn Book, who won four straight races on turf after being gelded, had never run or won a stakes on grass. After scoring in an of-the-turf overnight stakes at Belmont in May, he came right back to finish second behind Flat Out in the Suburban (G2). He finished off his 2011 campaign with a runner-up finish behind To Honor and Glory in the Cigar Mile (G1) at Aqueduct, prompting McGaughey to target the Donn for his 2012 debut.

“It was surprising how deep the race was, but it didn’t surprise me that he ran as well as he did. He’s just one of those hard-trying little horses that tries every time. Johnny (Velazquez) rides him really well and keeps him in the race,” McGaughey said. “I was happy, but I wasn’t surprised. He’s trained really well this winter at Payson Park. I knew if he ran his race, he’d be a horse to reckon with.”

Force Freeze Gets Final Drill for Gulfstream Sprint Championship

Saeed Naser al Romalthi’s 7-year-old gelding Force Freeze worked a strong half-mile in :47 2/5 from the gate Sunday morning at Gulfstream Park in preparation for his role as the likely favorite and horse to beat in Saturday’s $150,000 Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship (G2) at seven furlongs.

“That (work) put the finishing touches on him and we just have to keep him happy up to the race,” said Walder later in the morning. “My only concern is the distance, particularly coming off the layoff. Seven furlongs is a tricky distance. I think he can run with any horse in the country at six furlongs. Paco (Lopez) is confident that the distance will be no problem. I’m excited to get him started back.”

Force Freeze launches a new campaign after a very game runner-up effort in the $1.5 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5 when ridden by John Velazquez and beaten a neck by Amazombie, later voted Eclipse champion sprinter for the season.

A Kentucky-bred by Forest Camp, Force Freeze raced in Dubai during the 2010 season and through March last year before being sent to Walder at Monmouth Park early last summer. In two starts before the Breeders’ Cup he won the Teddy Drone Stakes at Monmouth by four lengths and finished second by a half-length in the Vosburgh Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park on Oct. 1, both times ridden by Lopez.

Pica Slew on Course for Hurricane Bertie Next Sunday

Trainer Brian Lynch was very pleased when Terra Di Sienna Stable’s 5-year-old Florida homebred mare Pica Slew finished a game second to Pomeroys Pistol in the $100,000 Sugar Swirl Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park on Dec. 10, and is now pointing her to next Sunday’s $150,000 Hurricane Bertie Stakes (G3) at 6 ½ furlongs.

“Of course, I would have loved to have won it, but she ran a great race” said Lynch from Palm Meadows. Lynch had special reason to want to win the Sugar Swirl as he trained the former Stronach Stable star sprint filly to sweep the three graded sprint stakes on the Gulfstream schedule in 2008, including the First Lady (now known as Sugar Swirl), Hurricane Bertie and Inside Information Stakes (G2).

“We passed the Sunshine Millions (Filly & Mare Sprint on Jan. 28) to point for this race, although I know it will probably come up very tough,” Lynch said. A daughter of Pico Central, Pica Slew was making her first start in nearly 11 months in the Sugar Swirl, her first start for Lynch and seventh of her career.

Pica Slew finished sixth in the My Dear Girl Stakes at Woodbine in her only appearance as a 2-year-old for trainer Greg DeGannes before resurfacing at Calder as a 3-year-old in 2010 with trainer Joe Calascibetta when she won three straight, including  Azalea Stakes (G3) in July.

Pica Slew raced twice as a 4-year-old last season, finishing eighth in the Test Stakes (G1) at Saratoga in August for trainer Mike Hushion and sixth after setting the early pace in the Santa Monica Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita on Jan. 30, 2011 for trainer John Shirreffs.

Three other prospects for the Hurricane Bertie posted workouts Sunday morning with Stronach Stable’s 4-year-old Her Smile earning the ‘bullet’ with five furlongs in 1:00 2/5 at Palm Meadows for trainer Chad Brown and R Larry Johnson’s 4-year-old Strike the Moon timed half-mile there in 48 1/5 for trainer Michael Trombetta.

Her Smile is set to make her first start since finishing a close-up third in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4 when owned by Bobby flay and trained by Todd Pletcher. She was purchased just days later for $1 million at the Fasig-Tipton November sales by Stronach Stable and placed with Brown, who also trains undefeated 4-year-old filly Awesome Feather for the stable.

Strike the Moon is a daughter of Malibu Moon and finished a game second by a half-length to Belle of the Hall in a 6 ½ furlong allowance race over the Gulfstream track on Jan. 20 after a good third behind Pomeroys Pistol and Pica Slew in the Sugar Swirl. Strike the Moon won the Charles Towns Oaks last September after a good try finishing second by a head going a distance in the Delaware Oaks (G2) in early July.

Working at Calder Sunday morning was Harold Queen’s 4-year-old Hot Summer breezing a ‘bullet’ half-mile in 48 1/5 for trainer David Fawkes. The daughter of Malibu Moon won the Comely Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct and Victory Ride Stakes (G3) at Saratoga last year, and will bid to bounce back from a disappointing eighth-place finish last out as the favorite in the Manatee Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on Jan. 21.