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Gulfstream News & Notes
McPeek Remains Confident in Frac Daddy
Frac Daddy’s winter may not have unfolded as Ken McPeek had expected, but the veteran trainer’s confidence in the 3-year-old son of Scat Daddy has not been shaken.
McPeek shipped Frac Daddy to Gulfstream Park in December looking forward to a productive 3-year-old season.
“Having been around a few good horses in my time, I think this horse could be any kind,” McPeek said at the time. “If he improves the way I expect him to, we’ve got a big chance to be in the middle of a lot of nice races.”
Frac Daddy, who concluded his 2-year-old season with a sharp second-place finish in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs, finished sixth in his 2013 debut in the $400,000 Holy Bull (G3), in which he grabbed a quarter. He subsequently suffered from a throat ulcer that has healed in time to make his second start in the $1 million Besilu Stables Florida Derby (G1) on March 30.
From personal experience, McPeek has learned not to be discouraged by just one subpar showing.
“The best example is Tejano Run. Early on, everyone was high on him as a 2-year-old. Then his first race (at 3) was an absolute clunker,” said McPeek of his 1995 Kentucky Derby runner-up who finished fifth at 1-2 odds in the Risen Star in his 3-year-old debut. “The first race doesn’t mean anything. It’s actually the next two that are the only ones that are important anymore. What Churchill’s done is probably good for the game – the format – because there were a lot of horses who got their earnings at 2 and then they wouldn’t do anything after that. They’d sit on the bench. Now, they’ve got to run.”
Under the new points system instituted to replace the traditional graded-stakes earnings system, the Florida Derby offers a total of 180 points, including 100 for first and 50 for second. A second-place finish would be enough to earn a spot in the 20-horse Kentucky Derby field.
Frac Daddy is expected to clash with Fountain of Youth (G2) winner Orb, Holy Bull victor Itsmyluckyday, Eclipse champion Shanghai Bobby, Spectacular Bid winner Merit Man and Pick of the Litter in the Florida Derby.
“I don’t seem to worry about everybody else. You got to line them up. You can’t control anything after that,” McPeek said. “I don’t care if there are three in or 30,”
On the Florida Derby Day card, McPeek also plans to run Kimberly Jean, runner-up to highly regarded Close Hatches in an allowance, in the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2), and Travers Stakes winner Golden Ticket, an allowance winner at the meeting, in the $100,000 Skip Away (G3).
Twilight Eclipse Set to Go Long in Pan American
Tom Albertrani will have a lot of confidence when he saddles Twilight Eclipse for Saturday’s $150,000 Pan American (G2) at Gulfstream Park. The low-key trainer will hardly make any bold predictions about the outcome of the 1 ½ -mile turf stakes, but he won’t have any doubts that West Point Thoroughbreds’ 4-year-old colt will love the distance.
“He relishes going long. That was the whole key to the horse, running him over a distance of ground,” Albertrani said.
Privately purchased after winning his first two starts at Indiana Downs and turned over to Albertrani, Twilight Eclipse was never a factor in a pair of stakes races before making his debut on dirt. The son of Purim finished third in a 1 1/8-mile overnight stakes at Belmont, beaten by just a length on Oct. 11.
“He actually ran pretty well. We’re not so sure that he’s strictly a grass horse. There may be a time when we’ll try going further on the dirt, because he ran so well in that overnight stake at Belmont,” Albertrani said. “He only got beat by a short margin that day and he had a lot of finish and galloped out strong.”
After shipping south for the winter, Albertrani put Twilight Express back on the turf at Calder for a start in the McKnight Handicap (G2) on Nov. 24, and the Kentucky-bred gelding relished both the footing and the 1 ½-mile distance to score by nearly two lengths. Mucho Mas Macho finished second before going on to win the Fort Lauderdale (G2) at Gulfstream on Jan. 12.
“The whole reason we decided to run there was because of the distance. The horse has given us every indication that he’ll run all day. It was a nice win. It was good to see him run as well as he did that day,” Albertrani said. “It looked like the horse was on the improve and with the added distance, he had a chance to become a nice distance horse.”
Twilight Eclipse raced evenly to finish fourth behind Amira’s Prince, a three-time winner at the meeting, in the 1 3/8-mile Mac Diarmida (G2) last time out.
Fort Larned Breezes an Easy Four Furlongs
Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Fort Larned breezed four furlongs in :50 3/5 at Palm Meadows Training Center Thursday morning. It was the first workout for the 5-year-old son of E Dubai since stumbling and falling two jumps out of the gate at the start of the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2) on March 9.
“He went good. I just wanted a light work to see where he was. Everything’s really good,” trainer Ian Wilkes said. “He listened to the rider. He responded when he was asked to finish it off a little bit. So I’m very happy.”
Fort Larned, who grabbed a quarter in the incident in his 2013 debut, returned to the racetrack last weekend.
Wilkes said a start in the $100,000 Skip Away (G3) at Gulfstream on Florida Derby Day, March 30, would be “very remote.”
“We’ll probably go in the Oaklawn Handicap (April 13),” Wilkes said.