Gulfstream Park's News & Notes

Gulfstream Park's News & Notes


By David Joseph

Zito Looking At Promising Winter
Olivares Plans Busy January For Tackleberry
Lebron Prepares For First Gulfstream Meet
Former Outrider June Davis Passes Away



Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito, a two-time winner of the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Florida Derby (G1), was eager recently to show off a striking bay colt outside his Palm Meadows barn.

“He’s something to look at, right?” asked Zito, knowing there would be no debate regarding the appearance of Robert LaPenta’s promising Derby prospect Dialed In.

Zito, who saddled LaPenta’s Ice Box to victory last spring in the Florida Derby and six weeks later finished second in the Kentucky Derby, is back with some promising 3-year-olds and two of the best older horses in the country in Fly Down and Morning Line.

Dialed In, a son of 2003 Horse of the Year Mineshaft, has run only once, but the colt was impressive Nov. 12 winning over 6 ½ furlongs at Churchill Downs after overcoming a slow start, considerable traffic problems, and a five-wide move before driving down the stretch like a horse who will only appreciate more ground.

“We have to sit down and figure out a schedule,” Zito said. “There are a lot of opportunities out there and he’ll get his chance. There are a couple of allowance races in the first (condition) book, and I really like what (racing secretary) Dan (Bork) does with the program.

“There’s a lot of chances for horses, just look at last year. You had (allowance) races with Ice Box and Pleasant Prince (second in the Florida Derby) and Fly Down and First Dude (second in the Preakness). So we’ll see how things develop.”

Fly Down, who breezed an easy half-mile last week, won the Dwyer (G2), finished second in the Belmont (G1) and Travers (G1) and third in Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). Zito said the plan is to work Fly Down “right into the (Feb. 5) Donn Handicap (G1).”

“Obviously, if things go well, maybe the ($10 million) Dubai World Cup (March 26),” he added.

Morning Line, beaten a head by Dakota Phone in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) will also be ready for Gulfstream although Zito hasn’t picked out a starting point. Ice Box is being given some time off by Zito but could race toward the end of the meeting.


Trainer Luis Olivares has had a long, storied career in South Florida. One of the first Calder-based trainers to ship cross-country for major stakes – he had two of the top turf horses in the country in 1986 in Grade I winners Flying Pidgeon and Powder Break – Olivares appears to have a top contender for Gulfstream’s Jan. 8 $100,000 Hal’s Hope Stakes (G3) and the Jan. 29 $500,000 Sunshine Millions Classic in Tackleberry.

A versatile, gelded son of Montbrook purchased privately by Olivares as a 2-year-old from Ocala Stud, Tackleberry heads into the Gulfstream meet off consecutive victories Nov. 13 in the Jack Dudley Sprint and the Dec. 11  Fred W. Hooper (G3)  at 1 1/8th miles.

“Right now we plan on running him Jan. 8 in the Hal’s Hope (G3),” said Olivares, his signature cigar in hand. “If he likes the track and everything goes well, we’ll run Jan. 29 in the Sunshine Millions (Classic).”

Although Tackleberry has not been headed in his five consecutive victories dating back to Sept. 24, Olivares said Tackleberry doesn’t have to be on the lead.

“He will rate,” said Olivares of the bay gelding, who broke his maiden over the summer from off the pace going five furlongs. “The only real reason he went to the front (in the Hooper) was because he had the one post. If you get the one hole at Calder, you better be on the lead.”


Jockey Victor Lebron, one of the leading riders the past two years at Turfway Park and Ellis Park and closing in on 1,000 career victories, says he “understands what I’m facing” riding his first winter at Gulfstream Park.

“I understand it’s a tough place,” he says. “To be considered one of the best you have to ride with the best. I’m trying to move my career along. I have some goals I want to accomplish and I think now is the time.”

Lebron, a 26-year-old native of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, grew up on a farm and recalled his father riding horses with him as a boy. After moving in with family in Pennsylvania to attend a year of high school – “My mother wanted me to make something of myself,” he said – he returned to the Virgin Islands, rode one official race, and then apprenticed at Thistledown in Ohio in 2005. Lebron earned his first riding title at Indiana Downs in 2007 and has since earned titles at Turfway and Ellis.

“Most of the guys I’ve ridden with in Kentucky, at Churchill and Keeneland, they’re heading down here (to Gulfstream),” Lebron said. “I think everyone hopes for a good 3-year-old, and this is the place to be for that. Some of the (trainers) down here I’ve ridden for and, hopefully, they’ll give me a shot.”

Lebron will be hoping to fulfill his goals with the help of agent and former jockey Oscar Sanchez.


June Davis, a popular outrider who worked at Gulfstream for more than 40 years, passed away Saturday evening at the age of 84.

Davis, who worked at Gulfstream until she was 81, was involved in barrel riding and roping before becoming an outrider in the 1950s, working for Hall of Fame trainer Marion Van Berg. She worked in New Orleans before arriving in South Florida in the early 1960s.

Arrangements are pending.