Gulfstream Park News & Notes
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - Todd Pletcher-trained Commissioner is training forwardly for his scheduled stakes debut in the $400,000 Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 22.
“We’re very pleased with him,” Pletcher said. “Physically, he’s in great order. He holds his weight well. He’s a very easy horse to train.”The 3-year-old son of A.P. Indy is scheduled to breeze at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream’s satellite training center in Boynton Beach, Sunday in preparation for the 1 1/16-mile prep for the $1 million Besilu Stables Florida Derby (G1) on March 29 and the Kentucky Derby (G1) on May 3. It will be his fourth breeze since his sensational 2014 debut.
The WinStar Farm homebred colt, who had opened his career with a second-place finish at Monmouth and a 1 1/8-mile maiden-breaker at Saratoga last summer, came back from a long layoff to prevail again at the 1 1/8-mile distance at Gulfstream on Jan. 3. Commissioner stalked the pace before taking over the lead in the stretch and holding off Top Billing by a neck. The Shug McGaughey-trained Top Billing came back to register an eye-catching last-to-first allowance win on Jan. 29.
“For him to win a mile-and-an-eighth race off a layoff against a top-quality field and Top Billing coming back to win impressively really flatters the race,” said Pletcher, who teamed with WinStar Farm for a Kentucky Derby win in 2010 with Super Saver.
Honor Code Back On Track for McGaughey; Top Billing Set for Fountain of Youth
Trainer Shug McGaughey issued an upbeat bulletin today about his high-profile sophomores Honor Code and Top Billing. Honor Code, the Remsen Stakes (G2) hero who missed some time with a hind ankle problem, got back on the worktab at Gulfstream Park on Wednesday with a three-furlong move in :35.66 over a fast main track.
"He breezed very well - I was very pleased with him," McGaughey said. "He seemed to come out of it very well. I jogged him this morning just to make sure and it seemed like he was none the worse for the wear, so, hopefully, all systems are go."
A son of A.P. Indy, Honor Code defeated Cairo Prince in the Remsen at Aqueduct on November 30, and underwent surgery to remove an undescended testicle afterwards. He was the shortest-priced individual betting interest in the recently concluded Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 2, closing at $12.10. McGaughey, who enjoyed a trouble-free winter last season with Orb, has yet to finalize plans for Honor Code's return to action.
"I think the Gotham (at Aqueduct on March 1) in New York would be too soon," McGaughey noted. "Two weeks after that is the Rebel (at Oaklawn on March 15), and I think that would be one I could probably make." The Hall of Fame conditioner was philosophical about the possibility of a race for Honor Code in the next condition book at Gulfstream.
"It would be difficult," McGaughey explained. "You've got the (Besilu Stables) Fountain of Youth (on February 22) and then you've got the Swale (on March 1) coming up and the Florida Derby (on March 29), so I think it would be it be difficult for a race like that to go. It would be nice, but I'm not going to depend on something like that."
McGaughey swept the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby last season with Orb, and Top Billing will be his representative next weekend in the $400,000 Fountain of Youth. The Curlin colt blew past his rivals in an entry-level allowance at Gulfstream on January 25, and recorded a half-mile move in :49.30 on February 8 at Payson Park.
"He's doing very well," McGaughey said. "He breezed last Saturday and I thought he breezed great. He was going to the gate today, just stand and back out. We'll two-minute lick him maybe Friday or Saturday and breeze him on Monday."
Top Billing, who races in the colors of breeders W.S. Farish and E.J. Hudson Jr., has won two of three career appearances to date. His sole loss was a narrow decision to Commissioner in a nine-furlong test at Gulfstream on January 3, and he is expected to meet that colt once more in the Fountain of Youth.
Brown Making Plans for Storming Inti, Normandy Invasion
Storming Inti, the hard-fought winner of the Kitten’s Joy on Jan. 19, may return to Gulfstream for the $150,000 Palm Beach Stakes (G3) on March 1.
Trainer Chad Brown is keeping an eye on the nine-furlong Palm Beach for Storming Inti, a 3-year-old Stormy Atlantic colt owned by Santa Rosa Racing Stables.
“He’s doing really well,” Brown said. “The Kitten’s Joy, he really fought hard in the stretch and I thought he was tired after the race. I’m just letting him recharge his batteries and get into a nice rhythm of breezing.” Storming Inti ran his win streak to four races, including three stakes, in the Kitten’s Joy, where he outran Grade 1 winner We Miss Artie down the stretch to prevail by a head.
He has worked twice since the race, most recently going a half-mile in 50.80 seconds at Palm Meadows on Feb. 9.
“I’m not sure if I’ll make the Palm Beach or not with the horse, but it’s a possibility,” Brown said. “I was really pleased with his performance. It’s a long year, so that’s why I haven’t made the Palm Beach a definite start. If I feel he’s up to it by the time that race comes, then he’ll run. If he needs more time, we’ll just focus on other things.”
Brown said Normandy Invasion continues to progress toward his 2014 debut, having had eight works since mid-December, including a sharp five furlongs in 1:00.60 on Feb. 9. He has not raced since finishing fourth in the Kentucky Derby (G1).
“He’s coming along really nicely,” Brown said. “We’re still not positive on where we’re going to start him, or when, but he’s been doing very well. He’s right on schedule.”
No decision has been made on the next start for Coup de Grace, who suffered his first career loss when 10th in the $400,000 Miller Lite Holy Bull (G2) on Jan. 25. He returned to the work tab with a four-furlong breeze in 48.90 seconds on Feb. 9.
“He breezed well, but we’re not sur what we’re going to do with him yet,” Brown said. “The Holy Bull wasn’t a good gauge for us with how the horse will handle two turns. He didn’t break well and then he rushed up there and got a little rank, and was going a little fast on the front. The whole race unfolded exactly the way we didn’t want, so we’re just going to draw a line through that and go from there. Where we’ll run him and at what level, we’re not sure yet. We’re going to give him a nice rhythm of breezing back and then pick a spot.”