Gulfstream News & Notes
Graydar Gets a Shot to Shine in Donn Handicap
When Graydar has raced, particularly at Gulfstream, he has been most impressive. If there’s a problem with the gifted 4-year-old, it’s that he doesn’t race nearly enough to establish himself as a star performer.
Despite his brief resume of three races, the gray son of Unbridled’s Song has been given the chance to shine in Saturday’s $500,000 Donn Handicap (G1) at Gulfstream.
“He’s a lightly raced horse, but unfortunately we’ve had a lot of spacing between his races, not by design. It’s just the way it’s worked out. We felt like he’s doing really well right now. We know he likes Gulfstream and let’s take a shot at a big one while he’s in good form and see what happens,” said Pletcher, who had originally planned to run El Padrino in the Donn.
Graydar has raced twice at Gulfstream, including a handy 8 ½ -length debut triumph last April. The Kentucky-bred colt didn’t run again until a third-place finish at Belmont Park in September, but came back to capture an entry-level allowance race at Gulfstream on Dec. 6 by 4 ¼ lengths. Both Gulfstream wins came at a mile around one turn.
“From a talent standpoint and a speed-figure standpoint, I think he fits. It’s just that we’re going a mile-and-an-eighth for the first time and we’re doing it against a really good group of horses,” said Pletcher, whose colt will be ridden by Edgar Prado. “It’s an ambitious move and a calculated risk. It’s a low-risk, high-reward scenario.”
Matz-trained Filly Hard Not to Like in Suwannee River
After returning victoriously from an eight-month layoff last month, Hard Not to Like will seek her second turf stakes victory of the Gulfstream Park meeting in Saturday’s $150,000 Suwannee River (G3).
Unraced since finishing off the board in her only dirt start in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) last May, the 4-year-old daughter of Hard Spun registered a half-length victory in the Marshua’s River (G3) over the Gulfstream turf course on Jan. 5.
"She came out of the race well and she’s trained well since that race,” said trainer Michael Matz, who took over the training of Hard Not to Like after she underwent surgery to remove a knee chip discovered after the Oaks.
Being a stakes winner who had been Grade 1 stakes-placed, Hard Not to Like’s victory was hardly a shock, but Matz was nevertheless pleased with her effort off the layoff.
“She had quite a good record when I got her, and she’d won quite a few of her races. But you never know about the first time after that long of a layoff,” Matz said. “She’s a pretty gutsy little thing.”
Matz hopes he’ll have as much success saddling Ramona Bass’ Applauding for the first time for Sunday’s $150,000 Hurricane Bertie (G3), a 6 ½ - furlong stakes for fillies and mares on the main track.
The Florida-bred 4-year-old filly won all three of her starts while trained by Al Stall Jr. before being sent to Matz’s Palm Meadows Training Center barn three weeks ago.
“We haven’t had her long. She seems to be doing well and she came here in good shape,” Matz said.
Applauding won her debut by nine lengths over Keeneland’s synthetic surface in October 2011 and came right back to win an entry-level allowance at Fair Grounds by six lengths six weeks later. On the shelf for nearly a year, the daughter of Congrats posted a front-running victory by 1 ¼ lengths at Churchill Downs in November. All three of her races were run at six-furlongs, but her new trainer expects her to be better suited to longer distances than she’ll run on Sunday.
"She wants to go longer than three-quarters or seven-eighths,” Matz said. “The way she acts, she’ll be better as a two-turn horse, but we have to start somewhere.”
Inglorious Gets New Season Underway in Suwannee River
Donver Stable’s 5-year-old Canadian-bred mare Inglorious lends a little something unusual to Saturday’s edition of the $150,000 Suwannee River Stakes (G3) since it's the first time and probably last that a winner of Canada’s historic Queen’s Plate runs in the 1 1/8 miles turf test for fillies and mares.
Trainer Josie Carroll developed the Canadian-bred daughter of Hennessy to win the Woodbine Oaks in early June of 2011 and then beat the colts in the 1 ¼ miles Queen’s Plate later that month with a 12th to first rally to score by 2 ¾ lengths. However, Inglorious will be bidding for her first victory in six starts since the Plate, including four last year.
“She’s run some very good races but hasn’t won,” said trainer Josie Carroll from Fair Grounds where she maintains her winter headquarters with a smaller division at Palm Meadows. “She was running well in good races against good horse like Marketing Mix last year, but she came out of that last race on turf at Woodbine in July pretty body sore, so we gave her plenty of time off.”
That was the Dance Smartly Stakes (G2) on July 8 when she finished third to Marketing Mix, beaten 2 ¼ lengths in a good effort. In one start since then she shipped to California to finish third in the Bayakoa Stakes (G2) run on ‘Cushion’ track at Hollywood Park on Dec. 8.
“She’s likes the Poly and turf just as well,” said Carroll who was due to fly in from New Orleans on Friday. “We don’t think she cares for dirt that much. She’s trained so well on turf at Palm Meadows we thought this race was the logical spot to get started. There will be lots of options for her this year.”
Inglorious goes into the Suwannee River with the biggest bankroll in the field at more than $1.4 million from a 13-5-2-3 record.
Close It Out Will be ‘Closing In’ on Sprint Championship
When the overnight came out for Saturday’s Donn Day program, trainer Steve Towne was not overly concerned with where Samuel H. Rogers, Jr.’s 5-year-old Florida homebred gelding Close It Out drew in the $150,000 Gulfstream Sprint Championship (G2) at seven furlongs.
“He’s going to drop back to last after the start anyhow,” said Towne. “That’s his style and I’m fine with it, although you are at the mercy of the pace. But he’s very reliable and just about always comes back with a piece of it.
“Even last time out in the Sunshine Millions (Sprint) when he finished fourth, it was the first time in quite a while that he hadn’t finished one-two-three, but he was only beaten a length-and-three-quarters. I got excited at one point in the stretch because it looked like he had a chance to win it all inside the eighth pole.”
A son of Closing Argument, Close It Out scored his last victory in the $125,000 Jack Dudley Sprint at Calder on Nov. 10 with Bahamian Squall second at six furlongs.
“I don’t think it’s any advantage for Close It Out to go seven furlongs rather than six just because he’s a closer. It’s more a matter of what kind of pace he has to run into like he did when he beat Bahamian Squall at Calder (half-mile in 44 4/5).”
In two starts since then at Gulfstream, Close It Out finished third to Bahamian Squall and Fort Loudon in the Sunshine State Stakes on Dec. 2 and rallied from 10th of 11 in his good fourth-place try in the $150,000 Sunshine Millions Sprint on Jan. 19 won by upset winner Off the Jack with Bahamian Squall second and Little Drama third.