North Star Boy Ready for Prime Time in Saturday’s Canadian Turf
BOYNTON BEACH, FL – North Star Boy made his Gulfstream Park debut on Dec. 7 in the $125,000 Claiming Crown Emerald, in which he demonstrated that he was no ordinary claimer with a solid second-place finish behind heavily favored Major Marvel.
North Star Boy, in fact, ran in the 1 1/16-mile turf stakes restricted to horses that had run for a claiming price of $35,000 or lower without ever having run in a claiming race in the United States.
The Irish-bred gelding became eligible for the Emerald by running in a pair of claiming races in England before being claimed and imported by trainer Niall Saville and his partners in the North Star Racing.
“He’s has back class from being a 2-year-old in England. He ran very well. He ran too high in the handicaps over there and didn’t stay on as a 3-year-old,” said Saville, a native of Manchester, England who worked in the U.S. for Janet Eliot, Michael Dickenson, Graham Motion and John R.S. Fisher before going out on his own.
“He ran twice in a claiming race there. We missed him the first time and we went for him the second time and claimed him.”
North Star Boy, who was claimed for 12 thousand pounds ($20,046 approximately), has flourished for his new connections, who entered the son of Acclamation in Saturday’s $150,000 Canadian Turf (G3) at Gulfstream.
“He’s just enjoyed life over here. He would have been in a big operation in England of up to 200 horses. He’s come to me and got some individual attention, a change of scenery, different tracks to train on, a little sun on his back – all those things have contributed to it,” the 31-year-old Saville said. “Some horses take up to six months to get back to themselves when they get here. But with him, he fired right away. He enjoyed it and thrived and got better and better.”
North Star Boy was ready to run right off the plane, finishing second in a starter allowance at Belmont Park two days after flying from England. He quickly found the winner’s circle in a starter allowance at Saratoga in August. He returned the winner’s circle in a $77,000 Aqueduct allowance race in November following a pair of solid showings at Saratoga and Laurel.
“We’ve claimed quite a few horses the past year for North Star Racing, a company with Colm White and Amy Weaver. We try to find horses that will fit over here,” said Saville, who is based at Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland and has 12 in training at Palm Meadows this winter. “We claim them or buy them privately. When they fit over here, they can run for a bit more purse money and get value.”
Following his second behind Major Marvel, who captured his seventh straight race in the Emerald, North Star Boy finished a distant second in a Gulfstream starter optional claiming race behind Longhunter, who came back next out to win again going away.
“I’ve always thought he was a stakes horse. Last time when we got beat by a very good horse, Longhunter. He was in top-class racing in England. I don’t know how he found his way down the claiming ranks here. We weren’t really cranked up last time,” Saville said. “We kind of used it as an in-between race to get us from the Claiming Crown to here. We were happy with our run.”North Star Boy is scheduled to wear blinkers for the first time when he faces 11 rivals in the Canadian Turf.“It’s something I’ve always toyed with, because he’s a bit of a playboy. This is the time to do it,” said Saville, who named Corey Lanerie to ride North Star Boy. “He’s learned to race over here and go two turns. We want him to be closer going a mile at Gulfstream with the short straight.”
North Star Boy will be sternly tested in his graded-stakes debut in the Canadian Turf, which appears wide-open with a talented group of stakes performers, including Salto, a runner-up in the Tampa Bay Stakes (G3) last time out.
“He seems to have bounced out of his Tampa race well,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “He runs hard every time. He always shows up and gives a big effort. Let’s see if he’s good enough, but he seems to be in good form at the moment.”
In his previous start, Salto finished second in the $100,000 El Prado Stakes at Gulfstream behind Mr. Online, a reformed claimer and Grade 1 stakes-placed gelding who will seek his fourth straight victory in the Canadian Turf.
Guys Reward, who defeated Salto in the Tampa Bay Stakes with a late rush, was entered by trainer Dale Roman in Saturday’s turf feature, in which he’ll chase his first victory over the Gulfstream turf in his 12th try. Rydilluc, who was a perfect 2-for-2 on the Gulfstream course with an allowance score and a victory in the Palm Beach (G3) last season, is slated to make his 2014 debut in the Canadian Turf off a six-month layoff. Other prominent entrants are: Fredericksburg, who followed up a Gulfstream allowance win with a runner-up finish in the John B. Connally (G3) at Sam Houston; Joha, the winner of the 2012 Breeders’ Futurity (G1) who won a Belmont turf stakes two starts back; as well as a trio of well-connected recent allowance winners, Abtaal, Reload and Unbridled Ocean.
Bad Debt, a multiple-stakes winner who finished third in the Sunshine Millions Turf last time; and Hampstead Heath, a Grade 2 turf stakes-placed runner in Canada, round out the field.