Gulfstream News & Notes: Declan's Warrior Takes Next Step in Saturday Allowance

Gulfstream News & Notes: Declan's Warrior Takes Next Step in Saturday Allowance


Declan's Warrior Takes Next Step in Saturday Allowance

Trainer Nick Zito is often in the spotlight at Gulfstream Park this time of year for his well-documented track record of developing potential Kentucky Derby (G1) and Triple Crown prospects, but he's been operating a little under the radar with no notable 3-year-old rated among the leaders of the division at this point.

However, Zito sends out one in Saturday’s third race ‘a other than’ allowance race at 7 ½ furlongs that he is high on in Lucky Shamrock Farm’s Declan’s Warrior with jockey Jose Lezcano aboard as he makes his third career start.

A Kentucky homebred chestnut by Majestic Warrior, Declan’s Warrior won his debut at Belmont Park on Oct. 10 and came back to finish a game second to the Todd Pletcher-trained Park City in a 6 ½-furlong allowance here on Feb. 9. Park City is entered in Saturday’s $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby (G3).

“I’m excited about him” said Zito of Declan’s Warrior. “Not as a potential Derby horse, but maybe a horse that could come around a little later like Bernardini did and take those big steps up each time. You have to look at some of these allowance races for 3-year-olds here at this time of year as if they were a Graded stakes.”

Declan’s Warrior may be the favorite in Saturday’s race but faces several other promising young prospects in the field of six, notably Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence’s Acclaim with jockey Luis Saez on a return call after they teamed up for a maiden special score here going seven furlongs last out on Jan. 27.

A son of Tiz Wonderful purchased for $55,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sales, Acclaim was making his fourth start and third at this meet for trainer Terri Pompay. Sixth with trouble at the start in his debut at Belmont behind Declan’s Warrior on Oct. 18, Acclaim finished first in his first start here on Dec. 6 but was disqualified to second for interference in the stretch.

Acclaim came back in another maiden special on New Year’s Day and finished second behind the Pletcher-trained first-time starter Verrazano, who won by 7 ¾ lengths and went on to win an allowance race by 16 ¼ lengths over Zito-trained Eton Blue. Verrazano is the odds-on morning-line favorite in Saturday’s Tampa Bay Derby.

“That race at Belmont we shipped up from Monmouth Park and he just really didn’t have his head on that day,” said Pompay. “He had trained great and we were hopeful, but he was a first-timer and had trouble at the start. He just ran OK that day.

“Then in his second race here (disqualification) he got a little weird drifting out. I think it was maybe a stick (whip) thing, but we’ve seen no signs of that again. Then he runs a good race against Verrazano. So he’s got experience and run well against good horses, so I’m going into Saturday’s race with confidence.”

Completing the field for Saturday’s allowance are Stipa Racing Stable’s Narvaez, Javier Castellano; Dream Walkin Farms’ Almost English, Joe Rocco, Jr.; Alastar Thoroughbred Company LLC’s Sayler’s Creek, Alan Garcia; and Ginger Punch Racing Corporation’s County Lineman, Luis Contreras.

Six Gulfstream-Based Jockeys to Tampa Bay Saturday

Six top jockeys based at Gulfstream Park this winter will make a day trip Saturday to Tampa Bay Downs for mounts on leading 3-year-olds in the $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby (G3) and several other six-figure stakes on the track’s biggest day of the year. Most of the favorites in those races are also shipping in from Gulfstream or Palm Meadows.

John Velazquez makes the trip to ride Lets Go Stables, Susan Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith’s Verrazano as the odds-on, morning-line favorite in the field of nine set for the Tampa Bay Derby after the More Than Ready colt won his first two career starts at Gulfstream by margins of 7 ¾ and 16 ¼ lengths, respectively.

Other Gulfstream jockeys and their mounts in the race are Joe Bravo (Eton Blue), Corey Lanerie (Honorable Dillon), Joel Rosario (Dynamic Sky), Edgar Prado (Park City) and Elvis Trujillo (Purple Egg). Honorable Dillon won the Hutcheson Stakes (G2) last out at Gulfstream on Feb. 2 for trainer Eddie Kenneally.

Maker on 1,000 Career Victory Milestone Watch

Trainer Mike Maker is having a solid meet at Gulfstream Park this season with 23 victories from 77 starters going into Friday’s program to place him in a tie for second in the standings with Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. Both are trailing Todd Pletcher’s total of 38 wins as Pletcher bids for a 10th consecutive Gulfstream title.

Maker is closing in a personal mark himself with 994 career victories to his credit and could hit that notable plateau at Gulfstream soon, or at Fair Grounds or Turfway Park where he also is campaigning divisions this winter. Maker has one starter entered at Gulfstream Friday and two each at Fair Grounds and Turfway Park.