Gulfstream Park News & Notes
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL- For the fifth time in as many starts, Wildcat Red will have a new rider when he returns in the $1 million Besilu Stables Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park on March 29.
Trainer Jose Garoffalo has enlisted the services of Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez for the 3-year-old son of Grade 1-winning sprinter D’wildcat, who is coming off back-to-back graded stakes victories.
“I’m very happy with that. I like him,” Garoffalo said. “He was the best option and he’s going to ride the horse in the Florida Derby. We’re all happy with Johnny V. I think he’s going to get along well with the horse. He knows every horse. He knows how to ride.”
Velazquez, 42, won the Florida Derby last year with eventual Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Orb, and was also first in 2009 with Quality Road. The two-time Eclipse Award winner had emergency surgery to remove his spleen following a spill in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) on Nov. 2, and has gone 12-for-67 since he resumed riding at Gulfstream on Jan. 25.
“I haven’t had the opportunity to talk to him yet but the kind of horse he is, he is very easy to ride,” Garoffalo said. “I don’t have to say too much. He knows what he is doing. I talked to the owners, and everybody’s happy.”
Edgard Zayas rode Wildcat Red in each of his first three starts, two of them wins, as well as the Juvenile Sprint Stakes on Nov. 9 where the horse finished first but was disqualified to second for interference in the stretch.
Paco Lopez replaced Zayas in the Gulfstream Park Derby on Jan. 1, finishing second to General a Rod. Javier Castellano was aboard when Wildcat Red came back to win the Hutcheson (G3) on Feb. 1, and Luis Saez piloted him to victory in the Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth (G2) on Feb. 22.
Owned by Honors Stable Corp., Wildcat Red returned to the track on Feb. 27 and has galloped 1 ½ miles every day this week. Garoffalo said the horse will breeze once before the 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby, but is undecided whether Velazquez will be up for the work.
“We have three more weeks ahead, but the horse doesn’t need too much,” he said. “He’s been training very good, so I don’t think he’s going to need to breeze with the rider. He’s ready; we’re just waiting for the race.”
‘Golden’ Ticketed for Gulfstream Park Handicap
Golden Ticket is scheduled to embark on his 2014 racing campaign in Saturday’s $250,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2) at one mile.
Although the 5-year-old son of Speightstown experienced the highlight of his career at the classic distance of 1 ¼ miles in a dead-heat victory with Alpha in the memorable 2012 Travers Stakes (G1) at Saratoga, trainer Ken McPeek entered his veteran performer in Gulfstream’s oldest handicap with confidence that his veteran performer is adaptable.
“I don’t know, his race in the Breeders’ Cup was a really good race,” McPeek said.
Golden Ticket turned in one of his most impressive performances in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) at Santa Anita on Nov. 1, closing from 10th to finish second behind second behind Goldencents.
The mile distance is run around two turns at Santa Anita, while the Gulfstream Park Handicap will be contested around just one turn.
“I really think he can be really effective at a mile,” McPeek said. “But this race is a good starting off point for the year.”
Golden Ticket, who captured a one-turn allowance at Churchill Downs last spring before finishing second in the two-turn Foster Handicap (G1), has shown a distinct affinity for the Gulfstream racing strip. He broke his maiden at Gulfstream over 1 1/16 miles in February 2012 and made his 2013 debut with a 5 ½-length score at the same distance.
“I don’t know if I can tell you he’s 110% fit, but I can tell you he’s not far off,” McPeek said. “He’s ready to run.”
Manoel Cruz is named to ride Golden Ticket in the Gulfstream Park Handicap.
Kimmel Hopes Patience Pays off with Silvery Starlet
No stranger to handling top-class fillies, veterinarian-turned-trainer John Kimmel may have another one on his hands in Silvery Starlet.
Owned by Mandy Pope’s Whisper Hill Farm, Silvery Starlet began her career in eye-opening fashion at Gulfstream Park on March 1. Under jockey Joel Rosario, the 4-year-old daughter of Unbridled’s Song had to steady early but made a powerful move to sweep past horses on the outside around the far turn and kept going, winning by 1 ½ lengths.
A half-sister to Grade 1 winners Roman Ruler and El Corredor, Silvery Starlet ($23.60) was purchased for $1 million at the 2011 Keeneland September yearling sale. She ran 8 ½ furlongs in 1:42.96 on a firm turf course to give Kimmel his first win of the Champions meet.
“She made a quick move, and she had been training really well in the morning,” Kimmel said. “Obviously, she has a lot of pedigree and is a filly they paid a lot of money for. I had her last year and we were just about ready to run her and she came up with a physical problem. We had to stop on her and she got six or seven months off. Hopefully, our patience will pay off. It looks like she might have a nice future ahead of her.”
Silvery Starlet had breezed six times for Kimmel at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach County, prior to her debut.
“She had a tibial stress fracture, and there was no surgery or anything. We just decided to give her some time,” Kimmel said. “Mandy’s a very patient woman and she decided to give her maybe a little more time than is standard. We were able to have her ready for the meet here this winter.
Kimmel said the plan is continue being patient with Silvery Starlet regarding where and when she runs back, and didn’t rule out switching surfaces down the road.
“I’m not sure she can’t handle the dirt,” he said. “She’s got a lot of dirt in her pedigree. We’ll just kind of take it step by step and probably come back in an a-other-than and let her get a lot of confidence in herself. That’s always been me with these fillies, and I’ve had a lot of decent ones over the years. They get some confidence in themselves and you try not to over-place them and get them beat, because it doesn’t take much to get them to sulk. The next thing, you’re having to give them time to get their mind right again.”
Having trained full-time since 1988, Kimmel peaked with 105 wins and nearly $5.5 million in purses in 2001, three years before winning the Florida Derby (G1) with New York-bred Friends Lake. Among the top fillies he has trained are Grade 1 winners Twist Afleet, Pompeii, Catinca, Golden Bri and Hidden Lake, who won the Eclipse Award as champion older female of 1997.
“It’s been a long time between drinks for me to have a nice horse,” said Kimmel, whose last graded stakes win came with Vexor in the 2011 Nashua (G2). “Mandy’s been great and she has supported me with some nice horses, and that’s what it takes. It’s not like you forgot how to train a horse; it’s about having the horses.”