Mott Holds Strong Hand in Turf Marathons Saturday
Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott appears likely to be sending out the favorites in both the $150,000 Mac Diarmida Stakes (G2) and $100,000 The Very One Stakes (G3) Saturday at Gulfstream Park, the companion events run at 1 3/8 miles on turf with the latter for fillies and mares.
The Mott team consists of James Karp’s 5-year-old Newsdad and Wachtel Stable and partners’ 4-year-old Irish-bred Amira’s Prince in the Mac Diamida and Juddmonte Farm’s 5-year-old mare Starformer as the likely choice in The Very One..
“Amira’s Prince has run two good races over the course and it’s time to get the new season started for Newsdad and Starformer,” said Mott. “They’ve all trained well at Payson (Park).” Mott also will have the favorite in the third stakes of the weekend as well when he sends out Besilu Stable’s two-time Eclipse champion Royal Delta in the $100,000 Sabin Stakes (G3) on Sunday.
Jockey Jose Lezcano rides Newsdad as he makes his first start since winning the Fayette Stakes (G2) at Keeneland on Oct. 27 over Nikki’s Sandcastle, a race run on Polytrack. A Kentucky homebred by Arch, Newsdad has demonstrated that he likes the Gulfstream course and long distance races, finishing second by a nose in the Mac Diarmida last year to Simmard and winning the Pan American Stakes (G2) in his next start.
Jockey John Velazquez gets the call on Amira’s Prince as he makes his third start at the meet and third in the U.S. since coming to Mott after racing in Ireland and England though late summer where he posted one win and two seconds in seven starts. The son of Teofilo has won both of his races here in allowance races going 1 3/8 miles on Dec. 22 and 1 ½ miles on Jan. 19.
Another top contender will be Richard Sherman’s 6-year-old gelding Nikki’s Sandcastle, who finished fourth last out as the favorite behind longshot Mucho Mas Macho in the Ft. Lauderdale Stakes (G2) going 1 1/16 miles on Jan. 12. Nikki’s Sandcastle was beaten only 1 ¼ lengths for it all in a good try with trouble in the race after a pair of stakes victories earlier in the meet for trainer Dave Kassen.
Jockey Corey Lanerie will be back aboard the homebred son of Castledale after they teamed up to score in the Claiming Crown Emerald and El Prado Stakes before the Ft. Lauderdale. The big question in the Mac Diarmida for Nikki’s Sandcastle will be if he handles the distance as he goes a furlong beyond his longest try when he finished seventh in the Arlington Handicap (G3) last summer at Arlington Park going 1 ¼ miles.
“That was actually one of his best races,” said Kassen of the Ft. Lauderdale. “He came out of the two-hole and got way back early, then circled 10-wide after getting back to next-to-last before he got clear and came on to get beat only a length-and-a-quarter.
"This race will be a real test for the distance. He’s never been this far. His one race at a mile-and-a-quarter in the Arlington Handicap he had an excuse. He was running along comfortably in second and backed up to seventh. He came back dead lame, three-legged lame, and actually needed a ride back to the barn in the horse ambulance.
“We went over him and couldn’t find anything and he was fine a few days later. We figure he just must have stepped on something. The jockey (Lanerie) thinks he’ll go the distance, so we’ll see. He’s versatile. Going longer, I would think, he’ll race up closer to the pace”
A field of 10 was drawn for the Mac Diarmida with Resolute Group’s 6-year-old gelding Teaks North certain to get support with jockey Edgar Prado aboard for trainer Michelle Nevin and Team Block’s 6-year-old Ioya Bigtime bringing solid credentials into the race with jockey Jeffrey Sanchez named to ride for trainer Chris Block.
Teaks North is a two-time Grade 1 winner after posting victories in the 2011 Gulfstream Turf Handicap (G1) and United Nations Invitational (G1) at Monmouth Park when trained by Justin Sallusto. The son of Northern Afleet spent most of 2012 on the sidelines and returned with a dull try when 10th in the El Prado Stakes here on Dec. 22.
Teaks North obviously benefited from his first start in 11 months in the El Prado and looked good winning the $150,000 Sunshine Millions Turf by 2 ½ lengths over favorite Doubles Partner on Jan. 19, going wire-to-wire. Nevin said after the race that Teaks North “needed a race to shake off the cobwebs now that he is older."
Ioya Bigtime has been a steady long-distance turf stakes performer for the last couple of seasons and makes his first appearance since finishing fourth as the favorite in the 12-furlong W.L. McKnight Handicap (G2) at Calder on Nov. 24.
An Illinois homebred by Dynaformer, Ioya Bigtime won the Stars and Stripes Stakes (G3) last summer at Arlington Park and the Kentucky Turf Cup (G3) at Kentucky Downs in mid-September before a tough neck defeat when second in the Sycamore Stakes (G3) at Keeneland in October.
Completing the field for the Mac Diarmida are West Point Thoroughbreds’ Twilight Eclipse, Luis Saez; Team Valor International’s Lucky Chappy, Alan Garcia; Stud Colorado’s Belo Acteon, Joel Rosario; Kinghaven Farm and partners’ Fifty Proof, Elvis Trujillo; and Shivmangal Stable’s Shkspeare Shaliyah, Javier Castellano.
Starformer Makes Season Debut in The Very One
Jockey Edgar Prado will be aboard Starformer in The Very One in her first start since a wire-to-wire score going 1 ½ miles on ‘soft’ turf in the Long Island Handicap (G3) at Aqueduct on Nov. 10. The Kentucky homebred mare by Dynaformer won an allowance over the Gulfstream course last winter at Saturday’s distance.
Starformer posted her first stakes victory also going 1 3/8 miles in the R.G. Dick Memorial (G3) at Delaware Park in mid-July/ She then finished second in the Waya Stakes at Saratoga and fourth when tried on Polytrack in the Spinster Stakes (G1) at Keeneland in October.
Also expected to attract support in the field of eight drawn for The Very One are Schroeder Farm and partners’ Irish-bred Kadaya with Joel Rosario getting the return call for trainer Bob Hess, Jr. and St. George Farm’s Closing Range to be ridden by jockey Elvis Trujillo for trainer Phil Oliver.
Kadaya has a pair of allowance wins over the course, the last at Saturday’s distance on Jan. 21 after the first at 1 1/16 miles on Dec. 8. The latter race marked the first start for the daughter of Selkirk since breaking her maiden at Lyon-Parilly, a provincial track in France in October of 2011, her sixth start for breeder The Aga Khan and trainer Alain Royer-Dupre.
“She was bought in a sale in France last November (2011) and we had her down here and about ready to run in February,” said Hess. “Then I got a call from the barn when I was at the races one afternoon that she was sick and colicking badly. We got her on a van and took her to a hospital (equine) and she was probably an hour from dying if we hadn’t gotten there in time.
“It took a long time for her to get well but it has been worth it. I’m very proud of her. She won the two races here impressively, but of course will be running against Graded stakes horses for the first time. This is a big test for her, but we think she’ll be up to it.”
Closing Range is lightly-raced but already highly-accomplished for Oliver with four wins and a second from just six starts. The Kentucky homebred daughter of After Market was a wire-to-wire winner of the La Prevoyante Handicap (G3) last out at Calder on Nov. 30, bouncing back from her only dull try when eighth in the Valley View Stakes (G3) at Keeneland in mid-October.
Completing the are Richard, Bertram and Elaine Klein’s Beijoca, Corey Lanerie; Gary Chervenell’s Seanchai, Javier Castellano; Joseph V. Shields, Jr.’s Game Fair, Alan Garcia; Team Valor International and Robert LaPenta’s Angegreen, Antoine Hamelin; Three Chimneys Racing’s Janicellaine, John Velazquez.
Tonys Investments’ My Pal Chrisry was entered ‘main track only’ by owner trainer Padarath Lutchman.