Gulfstream News & Notes
Casse Leads Delegation into Battle with Csaba in Hal’s Hope
Trainer Mark Casse expects Delegation to run a much-improved race in Sunday’s $100,000 Hal’s Hope (G3) at Gulfstream Park, buoyed by the knowledge that his 4-year-old gelding was not at his fittest in his second-place finish behind Csaba in the $100,000 Harlan’s Holiday at Gulfstream on Dec. 16.
“That horse trained on synthetic his entire career. When we brought him out to Santa Anita, we thought it was as close as you can get to running on synthetic, because it’s faster and horses seem to skip over it. I wasn’t really concerned with it. I thought he ran really well,” said Casse, who saddled Delegation for a third-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) prior to his runner-up finish in the Harlan’s Holiday. “He came out of the race a little tired, as most horses would be. But when he ran him at Gulfstream, he was exhausted. That is a much more trying surface.”
Delegation was one of Casse’s five Breeders’ Cup starters who got sick upon leaving Santa Anita, and had only two breezes before the Harlan’s Holiday.
Although confident that Delegation will be fitter for the Hal’s Hope, he’s not about to predict victory.
“I think he should be a better horse than he was three weeks ago. But, I’m going to tell you, he going to have to be a lot better horse, because the winner was impressive. I’m not taking anything away from him. That was impressive,” said Casse of Csaba, who won by nearly four lengths in the Harlan’s Holiday. “I’m not sure we can beat him, but we’re going to give it one more try.”
Casse, though, has very high expectations for Gary Barber’s Delegation as the 2013 racing season unfolds.
“I think if Delegation continues to improve, I think he will be one of the best older horses in North America this year,” he said.
Casse will also saddle William Farish Jr.’s Pool Play, a late supplement for the one-turn, one-mile Hal’s Hope, which he hopes will serve as a prep for the $500,000 Donn Handicap (G1) at Gulfstream on Feb. 9.
“We don’t have any other spots. He isn’t eligible for any allowance races. The mile is definitely too short for him. Initially, we weren’t going to go there, but after much discussion, Bill Farish and I, decided that it was the best of the worst scenarios,” Casse said. “Bill and I thought the best chance for him to have any chance of making the Donn, he’d have to run there, and that’s why we supplemented him.”
Pool Play, who finished off-the-board in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) last time out, previously captured the Hawthorne Gold Cup (G2) on Oct. 6, “As a trainer, he’s one of my proudest accomplishments,” Casse said. “He started his career late. I didn’t have him as a 2-year-old, but he was injured before he ever went to the races. He was owned by WinStar, who bought him as a weanling, and as a 3-year-old, I ran him a couple times. WinStar sells a lot of their horse in November of their 3-year-old year, and he was in a sale. I called Bill and told him I thought he was a talented horse. Bill bought him for $180,000 and he’s won $1.2 million.”
Pool Play’s biggest victory came in the 2011 Stephen Foster (G1) at Churchill Downs.
After he won the Foster, we took him to Saratoga and the first week we got there, he was injured. The (tendon) injury was a significant injury, bad enough that two vets who examined him doubted he’d ever come back. He came back. When he won the Hawthorne Gold Cup, in my thoughts, it was one of the biggest training feats of my career,” said Casse, who had prepped the 8-year-old son of Silver Deputy on turf and synthetic surfaces to prime him for the Hawthorne Gold Cup.
Sisterly Love Has New Home at Palm Meadows
Sisterly Love, who has won the first three races of her career, has been purchased privately by Gary Barber and is now being trained by Mark Casse.
The 5-year-old daughter of Bellamy Road, bred and formerly owned by Kinsman Farm, captured her debut at Calder by 11 ½ lengths for trainer Bill White. She’s come back to win two allowance races at the current Gulfstream meeting, including a most impressive front-running score last time out on Dec. 30.
“We love her. We got her pretty much right after her last race. We haven’t breezed her yet. I’m not sure when I’m going to breeze her. I’m not sure where I’m going to run her. There’s a shot we may take her out of town and run her in the Tiffany Lass at Fair Grounds. We could possibly aim for the Sabin,” Casse said. “The likelihood of a ‘3-other-than’ going on the dirt isn’t good. We’re going to have to look for a stake somewhere.”
The $100,000 Sabin (G3) is scheduled for Feb. 17 at Gulfstream. The Tiffany Lass will be run on Feb. 2.
Fawkes Team Set for Sunshine Millions
Trainer David Fawkes is looking forward to the $1.3 million Florida Sunshine Millions races for Florida-breds to be run at Gulfstream Park on Sat., Jan. 19.
Fawkes plans to enter four stakes runners in three of the races led by Larry Fugate’s 6-year-old gelding Cash Rules as a longshot in the $400,000 Classic and Donald Dizney’s 4-year-old Bahamian Squall as the probable favorite in the $150,000 Sprint.
“We know Cash Rules will have a tough task (facing Mucho Macho Man and Ron the Greek), but he’s training great and things happen in a race like just happened to Handsome Jack,” said Fawkes, referring to the fact that Handsome Jack had just been left at the gate as the 7-to-10 favorite in the first race Thursday, finishing fifth of six.
Cash Rules is a homebred son of Peace Rules and finished third last out behind Csaba and Delegation in the Harlan’s Holiday Stakes on Dec. 16. However, he had won his four previous starts in stakes races at Calder, including the Spend a Buck Handicap (G3) and Carl Rose Classic
"I think Bahamian Squall might end up the favorite in the Sprint. He couldn’t be doing any better. We talked about maybe bringing him back in the Mr. Prospector (G3) after he won the Sunshine State so impressively, but decided to give him the extra time after running such a big race. I really think he’ll be as good if not better than Apriority, but we decided to take the opportunity to keep him with the Florida-breds while we can.
“I’m pretty sure he’ll do well in open, Graded stakes and there are plenty of opportunities for him to do that ahead,” said the trainer. A homebred son of Gone West out of Midway Squall, by Storm Bird, Bahamian Squall has three wins and three seconds in eight starts and hit his best stride last out winning the $100,000 Sunshine State Stakes here on Dec. 2 by 3 ½ lengths over Indiano, who came back to win the $100,000 Mr. Prospector Stakes impressively on Dec. 29.
Bahamian Squall’s 6-year-old half-brother Apriority, by Grand Slam, lost a head decision when second to emerging champion sprinter Amazombie in the 2011 Sunshine Million Sprint here before a track record allowance score going 6 ½ furlongs in his next start.
Apriority would go on to finish second in the Carter Handicap (G1) at Aqueduct and lost another tough nose decision when second in the Churchill Downs Sprint (G2). Apriority came back to win the Mr. Prospector here last winter and lost another tough one finishing second by a half-length in the Count Fleet Handicap (G3) at Oaklawn Park last April.
Fawkes plans to enter JoAnn and Alex Lieblong’s 7-year-old Duke of Mischief and John Eaton and Steve Laymon’s 8-year-old gelding Picou in the $150,000 Turf. A chestnut horse by Graeme Hall, Duke of Mischief is a winner of $1.9 million earned mostly in major main track stakes over the years, but will bid to bounce back from a hard to explain performance last out when virtually eased in the stretch of the Harlan’s Holiday Stakes won by Csaba here on Dec. 16.
“I’ve got to try something to wake him up,” said Fawkes. “He came out of that race just fine physically. He did run well on turf early in his career. In fact he broke his maiden on turf here in his second start and finished second in a stakes on grass at Tampa Bay in his next start. Last year he didn’t run any good in a turf race at Tampa Bay but then ran great to be second in the ($1 million) Charles Town Classic (G2) in his next start.”
Picou is a chestnut son of With Approval and has made 20 of his 21 career starts on grass, including a third-place finish in the Sunshine Millions Turf here in 2010 won by Jet Propulsion. Picou’s career has been punctuated by several lengthy layoffs and this race will be his third after a one-year hiatus.
Picou finished second by a half-length in the Bonnie Heath Turf Cup at Calder in November of 2011 and didn’t run again until a close-up fourth-place finish in the same race last fall, beaten only a half-length for it all in a solid effort. In one start here since then he lost another tough decision in an allowance race here on Dec. 8 when he finished third, beaten a half-length by the winner.
Romacaca Can Cross Million Mark in Filly & Mare Turf
It has been nearly four years since Frank Calabrese claimed now 7-year-old Romacaca at Gulfstream Park for $25,000 out of her fourth career start, and next Saturday she will be favored to win the $150,000 Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf, a victory that would push her career earnings past the $1 million mark
“She’s never been better and hasn’t lost a step,” said trainer Danny Miller, who guided the daughter of Running Stag through most of her 3-year-old season after the claim and got her back in his barn last summer at Arlington Park. “She may even be better with age as she relaxes more in her races than she did when she was younger. We’ve been pointing for this race since we got down here.
“She’s at an age where you would consider breeding her with what she has accomplished, but we haven’t talked about that as yet. Frank (Calabrese) loves to race. She’s very sound and there is no reason she can’t continue to perform at the top level. Naturally, I’d like to keep her in training.”
Romacaca won her first three starts after the claim for Miller, including the Pucker Up Stakes (G3) at Arlington and has been a consistently high-class turf stakes performer turf stakes throughout her career of 16 victories from 32 starts, most recently winning the $100,000 South Beach Stakes here on Dec. 9. Romacaca finished second as the favorite in the Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf last year won by Hooh Why.