Skip Away, Rampart, and Sir Shackleton Stakes Provide Depth to Florida Derby Undercard
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - When the gates open in the Skip Away (G3), Rampart (G3), and Sir Shackleton stakes on Saturday, the older dirt specialists will have their chance to shine on the biggest day of Gulfstream Park’s 75th Champions Meet.
The Skip Away drew 11 entries, and the field includes Csaba, a multiple graded stakes winner for trainer Phil Gleaves and owners Bruce Hollander and Cary Shapoff. Csaba won both the Harlan’s Holiday and Hal’s Hope (G3) at Gulfstream in 2013. This year he has yet to find the Winner’s Circle, most recently running eighth in an allowance event on the grass on March first. In the Skip Away, Csaba will return to the dirt and will break from post position four.
“We ran him three times on the grass as a late 2-year-old, and we felt that he deserved one more chance because of his pedigree to see if, with maturity, he may have improved on the grass,” Gleaves said. “He ran well but not well enough for him to keep him on the grass.”
The Skip Away, run at 1 3/16 miles, will be the longest race of Csaba’s career.
“It’s the unknown,” Gleaves said. I think [he will handle it], based on his training. Based on his pedigree, it would seem within his realm. But – I hate to use a cliché, but it’s true – you don’t really know until you try.” Csaba is one of the few offspring of Kitten’s Joy not owned by the Ramsey family, who have become very successful campaigning their homebreds of the former Champion turf horse. Ken and Sarah Ramsey are on track to be the leading owners of the Championship Meet for the second straight year.
“We bought him as an unraced 2-year-old from the Ramseys,” Gleaves said. "I think it’s good for the Kitten’s Joys to be owned by others because it gets them seen in more places. It’s good exposure for [the Ramseys].”
Breaking from the outside will be the Todd Pletcher-trained Micromanage, who will look to rebound off a seventh-place finish in the Mineshaft Handicap (G3) at Fair Grounds last month after posting back-to-back second place finishes in ungraded stakes at Aqueduct. Virginia Derby winner War Dancer is also in the field, as is the improving Nevada Kid, who won the Claiming Crown Jewel at Gulfstream on December 13th.
Sabin Winner Devil's Cave Favored in Rampart
In the 1 1/8-mile Rampart (G3), the 4-year-old Devil’s Cave will look to win her second stakes in a row. Devil’s Cave, who will break from post two, won the Sabin (G2) last time out for trainer Marty Wolfson and the Alpha Delta Stable and was just three one-hundredths shy of equaling the track record. The daughter of Put It Back and Wabash Gal, by Jungle Express, has come into her own this year after running in mostly allowance races as a 3-year-old and transferring to the Wolfson barn.
“I’ve only had her for six months, really,” Wolfson said. “They (her owners) had another trainer before. She runs long. She was going 5/8ths on the turf in all her races. I stretched her out and took her off the turf, and it made a difference.”
Wolfson believes Devil’s Cave will be tough to catch in the Rampart.
“She’s got speed,” Wolfson said. “I think if anybody tries to run with her, it’s going to hamper them. Going 1 1/16 miles, she broke the track record. They tried to run with her, but she’s just very, very fast. She’s a pretty nice filly.”
Also running in the Rampart is Unlimited Budget, winner of last year’s Fair Grounds Oaks (G2), Rachel Alexandra (G3), and Demoiselle (G2) stakes. The filly also contested the Belmont Stakes (G1) against the colts and was sixth. After an eight-month layoff, Unlimited Budget returned in an allowance on March 8th, finishing fourth, but she could return in better form with a start as a 4-year-old now under her belt.
Ribo Bobo Favored in Sir Shackleton
The speedy Ribo Bobo will likely be the heavy favorite in the Sir Shackleton. The 6-year-old gelding will look to continue his winning ways at Gulfstream in the 6 ½-furlong stake. He has won 11 of his last 12 races and is three-for-three so far this season at Gulfstream, all in stakes. His recent wins include the Sunshine Millions Sprint and the Caixa Electronica Stakes.
Early in the week, it was thought Ribo Bobo might bypass the Sir Shackleton, but on Wednesday Servis said his horse is ready to go.
“He’s doing really good,” Servis said. "We’ve been wanting to run here. Ideally, would I have liked to have a couple more weeks, sure, but it just didn’t work out that way.”
Ribo Bobo was a former $6,500 claim for Servis, an investment that has more than paid off. Ribo Bobo has yet to finish worse than second for the trainer.
“It really didn’t hit me until the last couple of wins,” Servis said. “Him winning 12 of 13, it’s amazing. I might never get another horse like this.”
Happy My Way will return to stakes action in the Sir Shackleton. The 5-year-old Hard Spun gelding won an allowance on February 20th after running an impressive second to Ribo Bobo in the Sunshine Millions Sprint and sizzling in a December allowance, running six-furlongs in 1:08 4/5.
After the two hard races, trainer Joe Orseno resisted temptations to run in a few stakes races and dropped Happy My Way back down in company, but now he believes his horse is ready for another step up in class.
“I believe in the bounce, and I believe horses need at least 3 weeks to a month to get over races,” Orseno said. “I just thought I’d give him the extra time. He’s doing real well now and he’s real sharp going into this.” Orseno credits a race on the Monmouth Park turf course last July for Happy My Way’s improved form, but he also believes the horse can run his best on the dirt – when it’s at Gulfstream.
“I thought the turf put this horse running in the right direction,” Orseno said. “It sparked him and he trained better – more aggressive and alert. But he ran so well on the dirt (at Gulfstream) last year, so we decided to run on it again, and he ran better numbers than some of the top sprinters out there. I’ll probably run him back on the grass again somewhere, but he’s running so well here, so I hope he keeps taking the right step. I’m expecting a big effort and hopefully it’s big enough to win the race.”