Gulfstream Park News & Notes
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - Falling Sky turned in a thoroughly dazzling performance in the $100,000 Gulfstream Park Sprint (G3) on Feb. 8, setting a swift pressured pace before drawing off to a 5 ½-length triumph.
The 4-year-old son of Lion Heart ran seven furlongs in a sparkling 1:20.65 to eclipse Tour of the Cat’s 2003 stakes record of 1:21 and just miss the track record of 1:20.45 set by Hilda’s Passion on March 19, 2011. Falling Sky is scheduled to return to action in Saturday’s $250,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap, which attracted a field of eight, including 2013 Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Palace Malice and Itsmyluckday, the 2013 Gulfstream Park Derby and Holy Bull (G3) winner and Preakness (G1) runner-up. Falling Sky will attempt to carry his superior speed an extra eighth of a mile in the one-mile Gulfstream Park Handicap, although he will still only have to negotiate one turn.
Falling Sky tuned up for the Gulfstream Sprint in a mile allowance race on Jan. 11, setting the pace into deep stretch before falling a half-length short of holding off favored Revolutionary. “I think on that day, the other horse just got him. I don’t really think he had an excuse other than he had run at Laurel in early November and there was a two-month span into that race. He still might have been a little bit fresh then and not 100-percent race-fit,” Weaver said. “I think we have a bigger, stronger horse than we had when he ran against Revolutionary.”
The Jan. 11 allowance was run in 1:35.07, faster than the 1:35.30 it took Lea to win the mile Hal’s Hope (G3) later in the day. “We could have shipped him to Santa Anita to run him at seven furlongs (Saturday’s $250,000 San Carlos).
We could have run him there or sat on him and wait for the Carter (Aqueduct on April 6) or thought about Dubai. But the horse is in such good form, we thought it would be silly to sit on him. He’s doing so well,” Weaver said. “I thought of shipping out to California and back, but we’re in such a good groove with him, so I said, ‘Let’s just leave him here and run him here.’”
Falling Sky was on the Kentucky Derby trail last year when trained by John Terranova, who saddled him for a front-running victory around two turns in the 1-1/16-mile Sam F. Davis (G3). He subsequently finished third in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) and fourth in the Arkansas Derby (G1) before finishing 19th after a slow start in the Kentucky Derby (G1). This season, Weaver is concentrating on one-turn races for the Pennsylvania-bred horse.
“I think anywhere from six, seven (furlongs) to a mile, is fine, but if I could pick the distance I would pick seven-eighths, because his last race was his best race,” he said. “The horse is just going into his 4-year-old campaign and he has a couple of good races under his belt, and I expect him to go over there and run another one.” As confident as Weaver is that Falling Sky is ready to turn in another brilliant effort, he’s well aware that Palace Malice and Itsmyluckyday should pose strong challenges in their respective 2014 debuts.
“Those are two obviously proven class horses of the field. They’re both coming off layoffs. Itsmyluckday is coming off even more of a layoff. I think he’s had a good one-turn mile race (2013 Gulfstream Park Derby) before, so that caught my eye. I have all the respect in the world for Palace Malice.
He won the Belmont and probably should have won the Travers. He’s got a lot of quality,” Weaver said. “Both of them are coming off layoffs. I think going a one-turn mile, if both horses are in good form, I might be a little bit more worried about Itsmyluckyday. But, I wouldn’t surprise me if either one of those horses won.”
Elvis Trujillo has been named to ride Falling Sky, replacing Luis Saez, who’ll is set to ride Will Take Charge in Saturday’s Santa Anita Handicap (G1).
Prince of Wales winner Uncaptured Returns in Gulfstream 'Cap
Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Palace Malice is making his 4-year-old debut in Saturday’s $250,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2), but he is not the only classic winner in the eight-horse field.
Ontario-bred Uncaptured, trained by Mark Casse for owner John Oxley, had one victory in eight starts as a 3-year-old in 2013, taking the $500,000 Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie Race Track last July.
The 1 3/16-mile Prince of Wales is the second leg of Canada’s Triple Crown and the only one of the three races run on dirt. Woodbine hosts both the Queen’s Plate, contested at 1 ¼ miles on Polytrack, and the Breeders’ Stakes, run over 1 ½ miles on turf.
Luis Contreras will ride Uncaptured for the first time in the Gulfstream Park Handicap. In 2011, Contreras became the first jockey to sweep Canada’s Triple Crown with different horses taking the Queen’s Plate with Inglorious and the Prince of Wales and Breeders’ Stakes with Pender Harbour.
Uncaptured has gone winless since the Prince of Wales, where he rallied from mid-pack to beat River Seven by a length. They met again in the Donn Handicap (G1) at Gulfstream on Feb. 9 with Uncaptured finishing fifth, five spots ahead of River Seven.
“It was nice. It was funny because we employed a different strategy and came from out of it, and he actually won with considerable ease,” Casse said of the Prince of Wales win, his second in a row and third overall. “As it turns out, he beat a pretty good horse in River Seven. It’s always exciting to win a classic race. The one race that’s eluded us so far is the Queen’s Plate, and hopefully we can take care of that this year.” Canada’s champion 2-year-old male and Horse of the Year in 2012, Uncaptured has run twice this winter at Gulfstream. He came from far back to run fourth in the one-mile Hal’s Hope (G3) on Jan. 11 prior to the Donn, where he dueled for the lead before fading to fifth. Both times he was beaten by the Bill Mott-trained Lea, who was not entered for Saturday’s race.
“Uncaptured tries very hard,” Casse said. “At least there’s no Lea in there, so that’s good. Take nothing away from Palace Malice, but there seem to be horses that love that racetrack. Right now, I don’t know if anybody can beat Lea at Gulfstream Park.”
Uncaptured has breezed once since the Donn, going five furlongs in 1:02 on March 1 at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach County. In addition to Palace Malice, he will be facing Florida Derby (G1) and Preakness (G1) runner-up Itsmyluckyday and Falling Sky, winner of the Gulfstream Park Sprint (G2) on Feb. 8 who was last of 19 in the Kentucky Derby (G1).
“He came out of the Donn good and he’s continued to train well,” Casse said. “We initially hadn’t planned on running on Saturday but he’s training good and it looked like a decent spot for him. To me, it’s a good race. If Falling Sky brings his ‘A’ game, he’s going to be tough. I figure if you’re ever going to take on Palace Malice, this might be the time to do it with him coming back off a layoff. I like the distance, and we’ve got a couple races over the track. He’ll run well; hopefully, it’s enough to be competitive.”
Contreras and Uncaptured will break from post three in the Gulfstream Park Handicap, with Falling Sky to his immediate right and Itsmyluckyday and Palace Malice in posts seven and eight, respectively.
“I can see him somewhere in between. I think he’ll probably have a little more speed than he did in the Hal’s Hope, but not quite as much as the Donn,” Casse said. “Honestly, in the last race that was our strategy. We wanted him up there near the lead because it didn’t look like there was a whole lot of speed. Lea’s so good right now and he was pressing us, had he not been right off of us we may have run a little better. I thought our horse ran well. We were proud of him.”
No Nay Never Still Pointing for Royal Ascot
No Nay Never has emerged in good order from his runner-up effort in the $200,000 Swale Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park last Saturday. Perfect in three trans-Atlantic starts last year, the dark bay colt attended the fast early fractions, but could not withstand Spot's late surge in the final furlong. The Swale was No Nay Never's first start since annexing the Prix Morny (G1) at Deauville in August, and trainer Wesley Ward was philosophical about the colt's first defeat as the heavy favorite.
"There's so many different variables you can go over after the race," Ward offered. "If you had it to do over again, you could do this, that, this and that. Looking at it afterwards, maybe I had him a little short. I did back off of him a few weeks ago because he was so forward. The pace was fast, 44 and change, and he hadn't run in awhile. The winner sat back there and it set up. But the end result is the same, and the fortunate thing is that the horse came out of it in wonderful shape."
Owned by Ice Wine Stable, Susan Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith, the son of Scat Daddy captured his career debut at Keeneland last April before embarking on an ambitious campaign. The dark bay colt won the Norfolk Stakes (G2) at Royal Ascot in June prior to his Morny triumph, and he is scheduled to mount another challenge on the famed Royal meeting. One target mentioned was the Jersey Stakes (G3), a seven-furlong contest for 3-year-olds on June 18 at Ascot, and Ward was unsure whether his stable star would face the starter prior to that.
"We put him on a plane yesterday for Keeneland and we've got big things hoping for him this summer," Ward said. "After Royal Ascot, there are some big races and there's nothing imminent for him right now on the horizon."
No Nay Never's Norfolk win marked Ward's fourth success overall at Royal Ascot. In 2009, the conditioner won the Queen Mary Stakes (G2) with Jealous Again and the Windsor Castle Stakes with Strike the Tiger, and also saddled Cannonball to finish second in the Golden Jubilee Stakes (G1) and sixth in the King's Stand Stakes (G1) during the same week.