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Gulfstream News & Notes
Csaba on Target for Harlan’s Holiday
Bruce Hollander and Cary Shapoff’s 3-year-old Csaba breezed an easy half-mile in 53 3/5 Wednesday morning at Calder for trainer Phil Gleaves as he is kept on edge for his next start in the $100,000 Harlan’s Holiday Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Sun., Dec. 16.
“He had a nice easy half and he’ll have another more serious work here on Monday,” said Gleaves of the son of Kitten’s Joy, who has won his last two starts at Calder by big margins – the ‘off the turf’ Tropical Park Derby by 14 lengths on Oct. 13 and the Fred Hooper Handicap (G3) by 7 ¼ lengths on Nov. 24.
“After he won the El Kaiser so impressively last summer (July 21) we had high hopes for him and took him to Saratoga where he confirmed that feeling running a very good race in the Hall of Fame Stakes (G2) finishing second, beaten only a neck by the winner (off the turf race).” In his next start at Saratoga, Csaba finished a disappointing ninth on turf in the Equalize Stakes on Aug. 30, a race Gleaves won with stablemate Miami Cat. “Then he finished seventh in the Pennsylvania Derby (G2), which was not his best, but he did have some trouble in that race. In his last two he showed what we hoped he could be.
“With his pedigree I would have bet that he had to be a turf horse. His full-sister Kitten’s Queen, made her first start at Churchill on turf not long ago (Nov. 18) for (trainer Wayne) Catalano and she won big. From now on, the only time he’ll (Csaba) see grass is when he’s turned out in a paddock."
Castellano a Finalist for George Woolf Memorial Award
Javier Castellano, the defending riding champion at Gulfstream Park, has been named a finalist for the George Woolf Memorial Award, which recognizes a jockey for career accomplishments and personal character.
“I’m very honored to be a finalist,” said Castellano, who rode a record 112 winners during the 2011-2012 Gulfstream meeting.
The winner is determined by a vote by jockeys nationwide and will be announced at Santa Anita in January.
Four fellow jockeys have also been named finalists, including Perry Compton, David Flores, Mario Pino and Rodney Prescott.
“It’s not just about racing. You have to have a good heart; you’ve got to help people. We are all brothers,” said Castellano, after winning two races on Thursday’s program.
Abaco Takes Next Step Up in Tough Allowance Sunday
Earlier this week, trainer Shug McGaughey planned to enter Phipps Stable’s 4-year-old Kentucky homebred filly Abaco in Sunday’s $100,000 South Beach Stakes at 7 ½ on turf for her stakes debut, but found a more attractive option in the sixth race that afternoon, a one-mile optionsal/allowance test on turf where she will likely rule as the favorite to win her fourth straight race with jockey John Velazquez in the saddle.
A daughter of Giant’s Causeway out of multiple Graded stakes winner Cat Cay, Abaco didn’t break her maiden until her ninth career start, although she had run very well on a number of occasions before breaking through to the winners’ circle at Saratoga in July, followed by allowance scores at Belmont Park in September and October.
“She might have won a race or two before she broke her maiden, but had trouble in a couple of her races,” said McGaughey earlier in the week. “She needed to grow up some and mature” said the trainer when suggesting the South Beach was not the ideal spot to move toward her next major objective, the $150,000 Suwannee River Handicap (G3) going 1 1/8 miles on Feb. 9.
Abaco will likely be a solid favorite in the $60,500 optional test with some in the field of 10 fillies and mares entered for an $80,000 claiming tag, including Christopher Dunn and Pete Kleinhans’ 6-year-old Romin Robin. Jockey Joel Rosario will ride Romin Robin for trainer Rich Dutrow.
A Florida-bred daughter of Pure Precision, Romin Robin has earned nearly $290,000 and may move forward after finishing third behind Abaco in the Oct. 25 allowance race at Belmont while making only her second start since mid-April. Dutrow claimed Romin Robin for $80,000 here in March when she finished a troubled fourth in a race with similar conditions as Sunday.
Dania Beach & Harlan’s Holiday Stakes Highlight Dec. 15-16 Weekend
A full field of 2-year-olds soon to turn three is expected to go to the post for the $100,000 Dania Beach Stakes (G3) to be run at one mile on turf next Sat., Dec. 15 at Gulfstream Park, and several highly-accomplished older horses will be on the main track Sun., Dec. 16 to contest the $100,000 Harlan’s Holiday Stakes at 1 1/16 miles.
Nearly three dozen juveniles have been nominated to the Dania Beach, including Lothenbach Stable’s Bambazonki and Mary Lou Whitney’s Flying Bird, both two-for-two on turf early in their promising careers.
Bambazoni is a son of Hard Spun trained by Chris Block and won his last two starts on grass at Arlington Park and Keeneland following a runner-up career debut on Polytrack at Keeneland in late August.
Flying Bird is a Kentucky homebred by Street Boss trained by Nick Zito. He finished third, fifth and sixth in main track sprints at Belmont Park and Saratoga to begin his career, but has obviously found his best stride going two turns on turf to score in his last two starts at Delaware Park and Churchill Downs, the last tally on Nov. 24.
A strong line-up of established older stakes performers appears set to clash in the Harlan’s Holiday, including Bruce Hollander and Cary Shapoff’s Csaba, Gary and Cecil Barber’s Delegation and Joann and Alex Lieblong and partners’ Duke of Mischief with some in the field likely to be pointed to the $500,000 Donn Handicap (G1) to be run on Feb. 9.