Gulfstream Today 9.29.13

Gulfstream Today 9.29.13

09/29/2013

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Speechify was sent to post in Sunday’s featured seventh race at Gulfstream Park as the 4-5 favorite, but the 3-year-old’s dominating victory in the six-furlong sprint was against all odds.

The manner in which the late-starting 3-year-old gelding defeated his seven rivals in the $35,000 optional claiming allowance would never indicate the physical and behavioral issues that had seriously compromised his health and career.

“It’s kind of hard to believe to tell you the truth. We’ve seen him at his worst. The fact that he even made a race, I think is a plus. The fact that he’s doing this is off the charts,” said Barry Irwin, chief executive officer of Team Valor International, in the Gulfstream Park winner’s circle.

The son of Harlan’s Holiday, who turned in a dazzling 10 ½-length debut victory at Gulfstream on Aug. 24, made an impressive return to action Sunday, stalking a contested pace before kicking in through the stretch to win by 2 ¾ lengths.

“I think it was actually more impressive than his first one, because he actually had to do something,” trainer Ralph Nicks said. “There were a couple in front of him and another horse coming on the outside pressing him, so he had to show some gears and run a little bit today.”

Speechify, who ran six furlongs in a solid 1:10.25 under jockey Juan Leyva, suffers from a constriction of the esophygus.

“If you don’t feed him properly, he’ll choke to death,” said Irwin, whose Team Valor International campaigned 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom. “He doesn’t get hay. You have to bed him down on the right stuff.”

Irwin, who credits Tony Everard of New Episode Training Center in Ocala with helping Speechify recover from his issues, offered high praise for Nicks’ training program.

“Of all the guys who have trained for me, I’d say Ralph is the best horseman. I figured if there’s any shot, he’ll know how to take care of him,” Irwin said. “The evidence is there.”

Nicks, who said Speechify “basically eats soup,” did his best to deflect the attention.

“Everything’s been straightforward with him,” Nicks said. “I kind of got the blueprint for him when he came in.”

Nicks said he and Irwin will talk over Speechify’s next start after observing how he comes out of Sunday’s effort.

Day of Firsts for Apprentice Andre Worrie

Sunday was a day of firsts for apprentice jockey Andre Worrie. The 19-year-old 10-pound “bug” jockey won for the first time at Gulfstream Park shortly after riding the very first winner of his career at Calder. Both winners were courtesy of trainer Aubrey Maragh.

Worrie, who made his career debut at Gulfstream with a third-place finish on Sept. 7, guided Sweetly Put ($17.20) to a front-running 2 ¼-length victory in Sunday’s third race.

“No one bothered me. I got to relax my horse and she brought me home,” Worrie said.

Less than an hour and a half earlier, the native of Jamaica notched his first-ever win aboard Repentless Lady, an 8 ¼-length winner of Calder’s second race, before jumping into a car for the eight-mile drive to Gulfstream.

“I’m overwhelmed. I won two races in one day and I’ve ridden less than 10 horses,” Worrie said. “I’m excited. Hopefully, I’ve got a promising future.”

Although he had already received the traditional shaving cream and water ritual from his fellow jockeys after his first win, Worrie still got a hosing-down upon his return to the jockey’s room at Gulfstream.

Worrie galloped horses for two years and, until recently, worked as a security guard at Gulfstream while preparing for a career as a jockey.

Little Mike Ready to Defend Breeders’ Cup Turf Title

Gulfstream fan favorite Little Mike is headed back to Santa Anita for a Nov. 2 bid to repeat his stunning triumph last year in the $3 million Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1). The 6-year-old gelding, a multiple-stakes winner at Gulfstream, visited the winner’s circle for the first time this year Saturday after a game victory over favored Big Blue Kitten by a large nose in the $600,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) at Belmont Park.

“It was unbelievable. From my angle, I thought it was closer than it was. I couldn’t believe how much he won by,” said breeder Carlo Vaccarezza, whose wife Priscilla owns Little Mike. “After the race, he galloped out 12 lengths ahead.”

Vaccarezza, who flew back to South Florida Sunday morning, said the Turf, not the Mile, is the logical spot for Little Mike.

Little Mike will be joined by another high-profile Gulfstream alumnus on the Breeders’ Cup program. Mucho Macho Man will be among the favorites in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic after his smashing 4 ¼ romp in Saturday’s Awesome Again Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita. The Kathy Ritvo-trained 5-year-old, also a multiple stakes winner at Gulfstream Park, finished second in last year’s Classic, just a half-length behind Fort Larned.

Who’s Hot: Apprentice jockey Jonathan Gonzales rode both halves of the early double aboard Unbridled Heat ($4.20) in the first and Sacramental ($8) in the second. In addition to scoring aboard Speechify, Leyva rode Uptown Anthem ($11.80) to victory in the sixth.

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