Gulfstream Park News & Notes
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - Much of the attention, and deservedly so, will be on two-time Eclipse Award champion Groupie Doll when she makes her final start in Sunday’s $200,000 Hurricane Bertie (G3) at Gulfstream Park.
The multiple Grade 1 winner with a career bankroll of more than $2.5 million will break from the rail and be favored against six other older mares looking to spoil her going away party, including Sugar Swirl (G3) champion Heart Stealer and Azaela (G3) hero Wildcat Lily.
“Groupie Doll, her book is impressive in itself,” said Jena Antonucci, who trains Hurricane Bertie contender Five Star Momma. “To have the opportunity to run against and with horses like that, you don’t get hall passes in graded stakes races. We’ll let the girls duke it out on the track. They’re all honest, hard-running mares and we’re going to let them write the story.”
A 5year-old daughter of multiple graded stakes-winning sprinter Five Star Day, Five Star Momma is a stakes winner in her own right stepping up into graded competition for Antonucci and owners Summerwind Farm and Half Hollow Racing. She has hit the board in 11 of 17 lifetime starts, with five wins.
“We couldn’t be happier with how she’s peaking into the race. She’s kind of checking all the boxes for us in the right kind of way,” Antonucci said. “She’s done nothing but right by us since we’ve had her. Logically, just looking at what she’s done for us over the last several months, she’s got a lot of the overnight stakes won and been in her top form going forward, so it’s worth taking the opportunity.”
Previously trained by John Terranova, Five Star Momma has never been worse than fourth in eight starts for Antonucci since last June. She reeled off three straight wins in the fall, including the Chip Stakes at Aqueduct and the Lady In Waiting Stakes at Penn National, before finishing second by less than a length in the Willa On The Move Stakes at Laurel Park on Dec. 28.
“She’s the consummate professional. Every time you ask her to do the job, she’s going to give 110 percent,” Antonucci said. “We just have to see how her 110 percent stacks up against the rest of the field that day.”
Five Star Momma’s lone start at Gulfstream came in March 2012 when she was fourth in a seven-furlong optional claiming allowance. She shows two works over the main track, most recently a sharp half-mile in 47.76 seconds on Jan. 29.
Antonucci scratched Five Star Momma from the $75,000 Awesome Feather on Thursday at Gulfstream for the Hurricane Bertie.
“We just kind of listened to the mare and let her tell us,” she said. “She’s a filly that doesn’t really care what she runs on, she’s just fast. She’s adjusted really well to the surface, and the couple works she’s had on it have been everything we looked for. We’re excited.
“Hopefully it’s going to be more than just a test. She’s earned it with what her form has been for us. You have to ask the question, and we’re asking the question. We’re excited to see what the answer is going to be.”
Caroline Thomas Ready for Suwannee River
Watching late-running horses make big moves from far behind can be exciting for fans, but excruciating for trainers and horseplayers. Such horses depend on having a lively pace to run at, as well as finding a way to avoid the traffic in front of them.
Caroline Thomas, a 4-year-old filly and one of the top contenders in Saturday’s $150,000 Suwannee River (G3) at Gulfstream Park, is a closer making her seasonal debut in the nine-furlong turf stakes. She is trained by Barclay Tagg for owner-breeder Joyce Young.
Winner by disqualification of the Lake Placid (G2) at Saratoga Race Course last summer, Caroline Thomas got stuck behind some slow fractions and wound up seventh, beaten four lengths, in the Garden City (G1) before rallying to finish third by less than a length in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) in October to close her 3-year-old season.
“It’s always a concern for her. I don’t know whether she falls asleep back there or the jockeys do, but a couple of times it’s been deadly,” Tagg said of her running style. “I think if she stays within some kind of fair striking distance, she can be pretty formidable.”
Tagg picked up his first victory of the Champions meet on Thursday with speedy Munnings Sister, who went gate to wire to win the $75,000 Awesome Feather in 1:03.05 for 5 ½ furlongs.
“If you’re one-dimensional and you go to the front, you’ve got horse after horse taking shots at you sometimes, and that’ll wear you out,” Tagg said. “And if you’re coming from behind, you’ve got to work your way through or around the whole field. Neither one of them are ideal ways to race as far as I’m concerned, but that’s what she likes to do and we just want to fine tune it a little bit.”
Luis Saez will ride Caroline Thomas in the Suwannee River. He has never won aboard the Giant’s Causeway filly but has finished a close third in a pair of stakes, including the Sweetest Chant last January at Gulfstream. “He has ridden her before and done well,” Tagg said. “I like Luis, I think he’s a very good rider, really. I think it would work out good.”
Making her 12th lifetime start, Caroline Thomas is competing in her ninth straight stakes and will continue to keep similar company for the foreseeable future. Her dam, Bit of Whimsy, was a Grade 1 winner for Tagg and Young.
“As long as she can do it and is willing to do it, and she runs well in them, we’ll keep her at the top level if we can,” Tagg said. “She comes from a very good family and she deserves to be in those races. You can’t do anything about it if you get beat heads and noses in top quality races. You’d like to win some of them but I think she’s right there and if anybody makes a mistake, she’s going to be able to pounce and do it. If she shows us she can’t then we’ll find easier races for her, but so far I think we’ll keep her at the top level.”