Newsdad Returns to Defend Pan American Title Saturday
James Karp’s 5-year-old Kentucky homebred Newsdad, who won the $150,000 Pan American Stakes (G2) last year at Gulfstream Park for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, is back to defend his title in Saturday’s 54th edition of the 12-furlong turf course marathon in his first start since winning the Fayette Stakes (G2) on Polytrack at Keeneland on Oct. 27.
Jockey Jose Lezcano will ride Newsdad in the field of 10. The son of Arch ran four times over the course at the meet last year, winning an allowance race and just missed when second by a neck in the 11-furlong Mac Diarmida Stakes (G2) before the Pan American. Newsdad finished fourth twice and fifth twice in four Graded stakes going long in Kentucky and New York between the Pan American and the Fayette last year.
In addition to Newsdad, Mott has sent out the winner of the Pan American four other times with Phantom Breeze (1991), Fraise (twice 1993-94) and Silver Whistle (2006).
Another proven long-distance turf stakes performer in the field will be Team Block’s 6-year-old Illinois homebred Ioya Bigtime with jockey Jeffrey Sanchez getting a return call after they teamed up to finish third behind the Mott-trained Amira’s Prince in the Mac Diarmida Stakes here on Feb. 16.
A son of Dynaformer, Ioya Bigtime won the Stars and Stripes Stakes (G3) at Arlington Park, Kentucky Cup Turf (G3) at Kentucky Downs and finished a game second by a neck in the Sycamore Stakes (G3) at Keeneland in October, all three run at the Pan American's 12-furlong distance. In the start between the Sycamore and Mac Diarmida, Ioya Bigtime finished third in the W.L. McKnight Handicap (2) at Calder on Nov. 24.
“We had him in a good rhythm with a race every four to five weeks last year,” said trainer Chris Block. “He had a lot more time between the McKnight and the Mac Diarmida (seven weeks), and I didn’t have him really tight for that race.
“As the race developed he pretty much had to go from the three-eighths pole when several others did just to keep his position. He’s tactical, but he’s a little better if he can wait to the quarter-pole to make his run. Also, Jeffrey (Sanchez) said after the race that the footing from the three-eighths around the turn was a little chopped up and wasn’t sure he was getting a good hold of it. I think he’s coming up to this race just right.”
Trainer Tom Albertrani, a former top assistant to Mott, sends out a solid contender in the Pan American with West Point Thoroughbreds’ 4-year-old gelding Twilight Eclipse after two good long-distance races behind him this winter in South Florida.
Leading Gulfstream jockey Javier Castellano rides the son of Purim, who won the W.L. McKnight Handicap and finished fourth in the 11-furlong Mac Diarmida Stakes (G2) over the Gulfstream course last out on Feb. 16.
“It wasn’t a bad race,” said Albertrani of the MacDiarmida. “He’s done well and improved since then. They called the ground ‘good’ that day, but I think it was softer than that, which he doesn’t care for. We’ll hope for a ‘firm’ course on Saturday.”
Twilight Eclipse was making only his eighth career start in the Mac Diarmida. He won his first two starts on turf at Indiana Downs in June last year for previous connections and was acquired privately thereafter by the West Point syndicate. After a couple of even tries when unplaced at Saratoga and Delaware Park in middle distance turf stakes, he appears to appreciate the longer distances.
A solid threat on one of his best days will be Resolute Group Stable’s 6-year-old gelding Teaks North to be ridden by Edgar Prado. Trained by Michelle Nevin, the son of Northern Afleet was a double Grade 1 winner in 2011 when he scored in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1) here as a longshot and the United Nations at Monmouth Park when trained by Justin Sallusto.
In three races at this meet this winter, Teaks North obviously needed a race following an 11month layoff when finishing 10th in the El Prado Stakes on Dec. 22, but moved forward to win the $150,000 Sunshine Million Turf on Jan. 19 and ran well to finish second in the Mac Diarmida.
Signal Hill Farm’s 4-year-old gelding Mucho Mas Macho finished a good second to Twilight Eclipse in the W.L. McKnight for trainer Henry Collazo and showed versatility turning back in distance to post an upset score in the Fr. Lauderdale Stakes (G2) going 1 1/16 miles here on Jan. 12. Collazo decided to pass on the Mac Diarmida and train him up to Saturday’s race with jockey Juan Leyva to ride.
Completing the field for the Pan American are Solange Chadda’s Total Reward, Mario Argueta; Stud Colorado’s Belo Acteon, Paco Lopez; Lisa Parbhoo’s Ducduc, J.L. Alvarez; Brian Miller’s Gossip Column, Manoel Cruz and Luis Duco Stable’s Empire Builder, J.L. Castanon.