Gulfstream Park News & Notes
INDIANTOWN, FL- Top Billing tuned up for Saturday's $400,000 Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) with an easy half-mile move in :50 2/5 at Payson Park in Indiantown, Fla. Going out shortly after dawn, the son of Curlin went in company with stablemate Peter Island as trainer Shug McGaughey looked on. The Fountain of Youth will mark Top Billing's first attempt in stakes company.
"He's coming along - he's getting more in tune with what we want him to do," McGaughey said while the colt was cooling out. "He used to work on a long rein, but now he gets more into it. I think we're right on schedule. Everyone seemed to be pleased."
Campaigned by breeders William S. Farish and E. J. Hudson Jr., the chestnut colt made a bold move to win his debut at Laurel Park on December 6. He stretched out for the first time in an allowance at Gulfstream on January 3 and missed by neck to Commissioner after a troubled trip. Top Billing made amends on January 25, when he made a sweeping four-wide rally en route to a 2 3/4-length success in an 8 1/2-furlong allowance at Gulfstream.
McGaughey won last year's Fountain of Youth with Orb, who would go on to add the Florida Derby (G1) and Kentucky Derby (G1) to his trophy case.
Commissioner, a Todd Pletcher-trained son of A.P. Indy, will also be making his stakes bow in the Fountain of Youth.
Conquest Titan To Wait For Florida Derby
Conquest Titan, late-running second to Cairo Prince in the $400,000 Miller Lite Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 25, will make his next start in the $1 million Besilu Stables Florida Derby (G1) on March 29.
Trainer Mark Casse, who will saddle Coastline in today’s Southwest Stakes (G3) at Oaklawn Park, said this morning that he decided to skip Saturday’s $400,000 Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth (G2) and train up to Gulfstream’s signature race.
“We’re going to pass on it,” Casse said. “His last race, he came out of it good but I thought he lost a few pounds. He worked really well last week and he trained great this morning, but we can’t make all the dances. We’re just going to wait for the Florida Derby.”
Owned by Ernie Semersky’s Conquest Stable, Conquest Titan breezed five furlongs in 1:00 on Feb. 8 at Palm Meadows. A five-time winner of the Sovereign Award as Canada’s top trainer, Casse said the Birdstone colt will work again later this week.
“He’s not a big horse, anyway,” Casse said. “He’s just kind of an average-sized horse, and the Fountain of Youth is going to come up tough. We’re always at a disadvantage with him going a mile and a sixteenth, especially with a speed-favoring track. I talked with Ernie and we just decided to wait and go straight to the Florida Derby.”
Winner of the Swynford Stakes over the Polytrack at Woodbine last August, Conquest Titan closed his 2-year-old year with a come-from-behind victory in a one-mile Churchill Downs allowance on Nov. 30. Casse schooled Conquest Titan in the Gulfstream paddock on Feb. 7.
“We shipped him all the way down to Gulfstream and schooled him, and he got a little nervous and hot, and I wanted him to relax a little bit,” Casse said. “That was probably the biggest factor. I just want him to relax a little bit more than what he’s doing.”
Gold Will Send Out Two In Fountain Of Youth
Jacks or Better Farm Florida homebreds C. Zee and Best Plan Yet will each run next in Saturday’s $400,0000 Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park, trainer Stanley Gold said.
Gold said regular rider Edgard Zayas will be back aboard C. Zee in the Fountain of Youth, while Paco Lopez has the mount on Best Plan Yet for the first time, replacing Zayas.
“They’re both doing good,” Gold said. “We’re going to take a shot with both of them.”
C. Zee has finished second in his past two starts at Gulfstream, beaten by long shot Just Call Kenny in the $100,000 Spectacular Bid on Jan. 4 and by favored Wildcat Red in the $200,000 Hutcheson (G3) on Feb. 1. He breezed four furlongs in 48.80 seconds at Calder on Feb. 15.
“I think both were good races,” Gold said. “In the Spectacular Bid we fanned wide on the turn and gave the winner enough room to come through; the outcome could have been changed had he not been able to get through. I think he repeated a very good performance in the Hutcheson and just got beat by a better horse that day. Maybe we would have used a little different strategy and perhaps gone with the winner when we could have, but we chose not to. I thought it was a big race. He’s bred to go long, so I’m looking forward to big things from this horse.”
C. Zee will be stretching out from seven furlongs to 1 1/16 miles and coming back in just 21 days for the Fountain of Youth, the shortest turnaround of his young career.
“By choice, I’d like a little more time,” Gold said. “We were still unsure the quality he was coming into the Hutcheson. I was confident, but he had to prove it to me and he did. I would like to run not that close together, but I’m going to take a shot with him anyhow.”
Best Plan Yet has run eight times with three wins and two seconds, and is 0-for-2 at Gulfstream. He finished last of nine behind Fountain of Youth contender General a Rod in the Gulfstream Park Derby on Jan. 1, and was fifth to Cairo Prince in the $400,000 Miller Lite Holy Bull (G2) on Jan. 25.
On Feb. 14, Best Plan Yet went five furlongs in 1:00.80 at Calder.
“He only got beat a length and a half for second, which would have been fine,” Gold said of the Holy Bull. “We had to steady twice; once on the turn because he got caught behind [jockey John] Velazquez’s horse [Coup de Grace] who was stopping and we couldn’t get between him and the two horses on the outside, and we had to stop once in the lane. We kept running down on the rail and we ran strong.
“A length and a half for second is good against that kind of company. I was disappointed but encouraged. It was a good race. The race before we were boxed in nearly the entire race from the gate all the way to the stretch and we never did get a chance to run, so that was a throwout. He’s still got a bright future, I think. This one will tell us. It’s certainly not going to be an easy race. We’re going to take a shot with him and see if he’s going to move forward or look for easier company.”
Orseno ‘Happy’ to Compete in Gulfstream Allowance
Trainer Joe Orseno resisted the temptations to enter Happy My Way in both the Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint on Feb. 1 and the Gulfstream Park Sprint (G3) on Feb. 8, despite the fact that the versatile 4-year-old gelding would have been well-backed at the windows in both races.
The Florida-bred son of Wilko scorched six furlongs in 1:08 4/5 while winning a six-furlong Gulfstream allowance on Dec. 14 before running a strong second behind win-machine Ribo Bobo in the $150,000 Sunshine Millions Sprint on Jan. 18.
“He ran such big numbers, it was just too quick,” Orseno said. “One thing I like to do is give my horses enough time.”
Given time to recover from his recent brilliant showings, Happy My Way is set to return in Thursday’s eighth race, a six-furlong allowance on Gulfstream’s main track.“He’s training great. He likes it here,” Orseno said. “He’s like me – I like it here.”
Orseno maintains that Happy My Way is a little bit better on grass than dirt, with the notable exception being Gulfstream Park.
“As long as we’re at Gulfstream, I don’t mind running on dirt. Outside of Gulfstream, I think he’s a little better on the grass. I can take advantage of either surface here,” he said. “Ideally, I’d like to have him in a turf stake here that comes off the grass.”
Happy My Way won over Gulfstream’s main track last March, scoring a 16-1 upset over 1-10 favorite Carried Interest off a six-month layoff. After faltering in three subsequent races, including two stakes, he showed an affinity for grass sprinting at Monmouth in July when he was nosed out of a win.
“As soon as I ran him on grass, it really woke him up and turned him around,” Orseno said. “He became more aggressive and liked what he was doing. He just became a better horse.”
After returning to Gulfstream last fall, Orseno tried to stretch out his colt around two turns on Nov. 9 in the Sunshine Millions Turf Preview, in which he faded to fourth.
“I wanted to keep him on the grass, so I ran him long, and he didn’t want to go long. That’s why we ended up trying the Sunshine Millions Sprint, and he ran super,” Orseno said. “I ran him on the dirt here before that and he won like a good horse, so that’s why we kept him on the dirt for the Sunshine Millions. I think he really likes the Gulfstream (dirt) surface and he moves up on grass.”
Happy My Way broke slowly in the Sunshine Millions Sprint from the rail after the horse beside him acted up in the gate.“By breaking slow, he took the worst of it. (Jockey Joe) Bravo felt like if he could have broken well, he might have got outside of him easier and by not have to using him as much, he’d have had a better kick,” Orseno said. “That’s a good horse and ran a giant race, but I think the outcome could have been a little different. I don’t know.”
Happy My Way, who is set to be ridden again by Bravo, is slated to face four rivals in Thursday’s six-furlong sprint, including Honorable Dillon and Undrafted, who finished one-three in last year’s Hutcheson Stakes (G2).