Shackleford and Ruler On Ice on Course to Meet in Feb. 11 Donn Handicap
By Jack Will
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Michael Lauffer and W.D. Cubbedge’s Shackleford, winner of the 2011 Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico, and Lori and George Hall’s Ruler On Ice, winner of the 2011 Belmont Stakes (G1), are on target to clash in the $500,000 Donn Handicap (G1) at Gulfstream Park on Saturday., Feb. 11.
The 1 1/8 miles Donn will climax an outstanding program that will include three other graded stakes including the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1) at 1 1/8 miles on turf.
Rounding out the stakes line-up that afternoon will be the $150,000 Hutcheson Stakes (G2) for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs and the $150,000 Suwannee River Stakes (G3) for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles on turf.
Trained by Dale Romans, Shackleford will be making his first start in the Donn since finishing second in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5. The flashy chestnut colt by Forestry was beaten a head when second to Dialed In last spring in the Florida Derby (G1) over the track and distance.
Ruler On Ice is trained by Kelly Breen and went on to finish a game third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) last fall at Churchill when beaten 2 ½ lengths for it all. The Roman Ruler gelding made one more start finishing fifth in the Clark Handicap (G1) at Churchill in late November, but was determined to have had a lung infection after the race. He has posted a series of ‘bullet’ workouts at Palm Meadows ahead of his return.
While considerable attention in the Donn will focus on the two Triple Crown race winners, trainer Rick Dutrow is expected to send out a highly-accomplished team in the race with Pegasus Holding Group and IEAH Stable’s undefeated 5-year-old Trickmeister and Jay Em Ess Stable’s 4-year-old Redeemed.
Also nominated and expected to start is Preston Stable’s 6-year-old Flat Out, winner of the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) at Belmont Park last fall before finishing sixth as the favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Trained by Scooter Dickey, the son of Flatter finished second in the Whitney Handicap (G1) and Woodward Stakes (G1) at Saratoga over the summer.
While Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom is nominated for the Gulfstream Turf, trainer Graham Motion has announced the colt will not be ready to make his 2012 debut on the Feb. 11 program.
Others nominated for the Gulfstream Turf include Jules Boutelle’s Teaks North, winner of the race last year and the United Nations (G1) at Monmouth Park; and Sullimar Stable’s Get Stormy, a two-time Grade 1 winner last spring in the Maker’s Mark Mile at Keeneland and Turf Classic at Churchill Downs for trainer Tom Bush.
Trainer Todd Pletcher is very deep in 3-year-old talent early this year and has eight nominated for the Hutcheson Stakes with Stonestreet Stable’s Spring Hill Farm and Starlight Racing’s Thunder Mocassin the most likely to start. Each has won their career debut over the track at this meet. Spring Hill Farm is a son Smart Strike and ran off to score by 6 ¼ lengths as the 7-to-10 favorite going seven furlongs on Jan. 14.
Another leading prospect for the Hutcheson is Augustin Stable’s Ever So Lucky, a son of Indian Charlie trained by Jonathan Sheppard. He attracted plenty of attention at Churchill Downs in the fall when he won his debut by 3 ¼ lengths and came back with a top effort to be second in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) in late November.
Leading nominees for the 67th running of the Suwannee River include Frank Jones, Jr.’s Tapitsfly, Stuart Janney III’s Hit It Rich, Barbara Hunter’s Snow Top Mountain, Ghislaine Head’s Denomination and Summerplace Farm’s Heavenly Landing.