Gulfstream Park News & Notes

Gulfstream Park News & Notes


HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Csaba returned to his stakes-winning form in his most recent race, but a glance at the final running time could temper a bettor’s enthusiasm while handicapping Sunday’s $100,000 Harlan’s Holiday Stakes at Gulfstream Park.           

Older horses just don’t win 1 1/8-mile stakes in 152.93 on a fast track, but Csaba has won the Fred Hooper Stakes (G3) at Calder with that very clocking not once, but twice.

" It always concerns me a little bit when I look at the times of the races at Calder for a mile and an eighth, but I went back to last year’s Hooper, and he won in the exact identical time. So that made me feel better about the race,” trainer Phil Gleaves said.

It’s what Csaba did after turning in such a slow clocking in victory last year that should give his trainer confidence going into Sunday’s 1 1/16-mile stakes for 3-year-olds and up.           

The 4-year-old son of Kitten’s Joy went on to capture the Harlan’s Holiday  by a dominating 3 ¾ lengths and come right back to win the one-turn mile Hal’s Hope (G3) at Gulfstream.

“He’s come out of his last race great,” Gleaves said. “As much as he loves Calder, he loves it here, too. He won two stakes here.”

The last time Csaba raced at Gulfstream he finished a clear second in the $100,000 Quality Road at 1 1/16 miles before posting a front-running allowance win and an off-the-place score in the Hooper.

“He’s very tractable. He can win on the front end and he can win just off the pace. He won the Hal’s Hope last year even farther back, but that was going a one-turn mile,” Gleaves said.  “He broke his maiden going one turn as a 2-year-old. He just got up going one turn last year in the Hal’s Hope. I would say two turns is better for him.”

Csaba, who is scheduled to be ridden again by Luis Saez, is rated as the 5-2 morning-line favorite in a field of eight that includes Neck ‘n Neck, a multiple-stakes winner making his second start of 2013 after sitting out 11 months due to an ankle injury. Fair Grounds-based Brian Hernandez Jr. has been named to ride the Ian Wilkes-trained 4-year-old, who is rated second in the morning line at 3-1 and will break from the rail post position, one spot inside Csaba.

Bourbon Courage, the 2012 Super Derby winner who is still seeking his first 2013 win, is rated third at 4-1 after finishing fourth in the Clark Handicap (G1) at Churchill Downs last time out. Javier Castellano has the call. River Seven, the winner of back-to-back turf stakes in his last two starts, is rated at 5-1 for his second start on dirt, over which he finished second in this year’s Prince of Wales Stakes, the second leg of Canada’s Triple Crown.

Sr. Quisqueyano, Reveron, Purple Egg and Joshua’s Comprise round out the field.                       

Star Harbour: A Claim to Fame           

Star Harbour, claimed for $35,000 by trainer Bobby Dibona at Saratoga this past summer, will attempt to continue his rise up the class ladder next Saturday in the $100,000 Mr. Prospector Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park. The 5-year-old put up a career-best performance last out in the Sunshine State Stakes at Gulfstream on December 8, and Dibona feels he should strike while the iron is hot.           

“He’s doing wonderful. I’m very happy with him,” Dibona said. “Originally, I had no intentions at all about running in the Mr. Prospector—really, no consideration whatsoever. I was just going to go right to the Sunshine Millions [on January 18]. But he came out of the race so well, I really don’t feel like I want to sit on him for six weeks. We’re going to try to train him a little differently now; there will be no breeze in between races. We’ll just try to keep him happy and come back in 20 days.”          

The Florida-bred began his career for breeder Peter Vegso and trainer Bill Mott. He set the pace in the Sunshine Millions Sprint last January before fading to fifth. On August 29, Mott dropped Star Harbour in for $35,000 at Saratoga and the bay horse aired by 12 lengths. In his first start for Marco Thoroughbred Corp. and Dibona, Star Harbour ran third to Caixa Eletronica in the Duck Dance Stakes at Belmont on October 6, then was freshened up ahead of his Sunshine State performance. He requires special attention at the barn, but that has paid off thus far for Dibona.           

“I heard through most of his career with Mr. Mott that he had struggled with his feet, and he can be a little bit of a bleeder,” Dibona explained. “We stay on top of those feet and we have a good program for the bleeders. It’s about keeping him happy. I’ve got good help and he seems to be enjoying himself right now.”