Gulfstream News & Notes
Ron The Greek Ready for ‘Classic’ Rematch
Ron the Greek began and ended his 2012 racing season in races in which he finished behind Mucho Macho Man, who defeated him by 1 ½ lengths while winning the $400,000 Florida Sunshine Millions Classic and was more than seven lengths ahead of him while finishing second in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic.
“We're taking on a top horse in Mucho Macho Man,” said trainer Bill Mott, who entered Ron the Greek for a rematch in Saturday’s Florida Sunshine Millions Classic. “He's been working very well and it seems like he's very sharp, so he'll just have to see what happens.”
Ron the Greek’s fourth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, in which Fort Loudon edged Mucho Macho Man by a half-length, was a better performance that it might appear. After getting off to an awkward start, the 6-year-old son of Full Mandate closed well on the outside over the speed-favoring track.
“He's doing well enough. He came out of the Breeders' Cup and had a short, brief vacation. Obviously, nothing too long or we wouldn't be running here. He's come back and we got a few works in him,” Mott said.
Ron the Greek, who captured the Santa Anita Handicap (G1) and the Stephen Foster (G1) at Churchill Downs between his meetings with Mucho Macho Man, may have earned a long rest, but Mott wasn’t about to give him one.
“He's an older horse and I don't think an extended vacation at this point in time would necessarily be the right thing for a horse like him. Sometimes it's hard to bring them back in peak form if you're off too long, and there was no reason to lay off for an extended period of time.,” Mott said. “He came back fine. We got him back to Florida, and he had nearly three weeks without training. He was just turned out in the paddock, and we brought him right back into full training.”
Mott will also be represented in the Florida Sunshine Millions by Star Harbour, who’ll make his stakes debut in the $150,000 Sprint.
“He just shipped down from NY. He breezed (Monday) morning. He went well and if all is in good shape we'll be running him," Mott said.
The Sprint hasn’t been a long-range target.
“I always knew he was eligible for this spot. We entered for a race in New York and it didn't go. He frankly has never been fond of (Aqueduct’s) inner-track anyway,” Mott said. “We raced him up there last winter. He won before and after the inner-track but he doesn't seem to fire his best shot on the inner-track.
So we thought this would be a competitive race and a good option for us.”
Star Harbour, a 5-year-old son of Indian Charlie, is coming off back-to-back allowance victories at Belmont Park and Aqueduct’s main track.
Zito Hopes Fort Loudon Goes Long in Classic
Being a multiple-stakes winning Florida-bred, Fort Loudon was certainly expected to be a prominent participant in Saturday’s $1.3 million Florida Sunshine Millions at Gulfstream Park. What wasn’t expected was trainer Nick Zito’s decision to bypass the $150,000 Sprint in favor of the $400,000 Classic.
Fort Loudon was a three-time stakes winner at sprint distances and finished a close second in the King’s Bishop (G1) at Saratoga in 2012, but his Hall of Fame trainer went ahead and entered the Fred Brei’s homebred 4-year-old in the Classic at 1-1/8 miles against Mucho Macho Man and Ron the Greek, the 1-2 finishers last year.
“I’ve always wanted to stretch him out. I talked to Mr. Brei about stretching him out again, and we’ll give it a whirl. It’s interesting that those two horses are Florida-breds,” Zito said of Mucho Macho Man and Ron the Greek. “You usually don’t see those kind of horses in a race like this. One just gets beat in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (Mucho Macho Man) and Ron the Greek won the Santa Anita Handicap. When do you see that? It’s a credit to the Florida-bred program.”
Stretching out from sprint distances, Fort Loudon is expected to be forwardly placed in the Classic.
“He should be on the lead or close to it. He definitely should be right on the pace,” Zito said. “Ron the Greek is tough; the other horse is tough, Mucho Macho Man, but Loudon fits right in there after that. So if they have a bad day, and we have a good day, who knows?”
Zito, who saddled Jackson Bend, a Brei homebred for two Grade 1 victories the last two years, is impressed with Brei’s knack for breeding tough and talented Florida-breds.
“Loudon’s a typical Fred Brei horse that’s durable. Fred, for some reason, breeds a durable horse. He’s a throwback horse,” Zito said. “I enjoy the friendship I have with Fred. We have a very good relationship. He likes our work; we like his work.
‘Mood’ is Set for Filly & Mare Sprint
R Holiday Mood will make her first start in 10 months in Saturday’s $150,000 Florida Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Sprint.
"She’s training great. We’re really looking forward to getting her started again,” Trainer Todd Pletcher said. “She had a few physical things that we need to give her time off for. We know she likes Gulfstream, so we’ve freshened her up for this meet.”
R Holiday Mood was a two-time stakes winner during the 2011-2012 Gulfstream meeting. Including the Ocala for state-breds at a mile and Herecomesthebride (G3) at 6 ½ furlongs. She prematurely concluded her racing season with a fourth-place finish in the seven-furlong Inside Information (G2) on March 17.
“We feel like she’s best suited to six furlongs and a mile,” said Pletcher of the E. Paul Robsham Stables’ homebred.
Pletcher will also saddle Doubles Partner for a start in the $150,000 Florida Sunshine Millions Turf. The 6-year-old son of Rock Hard Ten has won two of three starts at Gulfstream, including last season’s Canadian Turf (G3).
“He’s doing real well,” Pletcher said. “He really seems to like the turf course at Gulfstream.”
Regalo Mia a Small Filly Ready for Big Race
Regalo Mia, who broke her maiden at Gulfstream Park last season, will seek her first stakes victory in the $150,000 Florida Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf.
After that score, the 4-year-old daughter of Sligo Bay finished in the money in five straight stakes, including a second-place finish by a nose in the Sands Point (G2) at Belmont last May.
“She’s a very small filly, size-wise, so it’s really hard to judge. She’s a closer; she tends to be a deep closer, so when you’re riding to the wire like that, it’s really hard to feel like your body’s in front of the other jock’s body, and yet your horse is still a nose behind,” trainer Michelle Nihei said. “So I think there’s a lot to judging her accordingly.”
That streak of stakes placings was upended with a ninth-place finish from the No. 12 post position in the Mrs. Revere (G2) at Churchill Downs last November.
“There were a lot of things going against us that day. She drew outside and she wasn’t really accustomed to being in the climate of having to run at night and in 30 degrees. That track wasn’t playing predictable that day. A lot of us who ran on the turf that weekend were kind of puzzled how it was playing,” Nihei said. “I really think you want to throw that race out. We’ve had a chance to regroup and we’re feeling pretty confident.”
Javier Castellano, who was aboard Regalo Mia in the Sands Point, will return to the irons Saturday.