By Ed Gray For GulfstreamPark.com
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Lisa Lewis has spent the last four winters training in Southern California, and it’s been five years since she has had horses stabled at Gulfstream Park. With the help of an old friend, Lewis is back in South Florida for the 2011 season.
“I used to train horses for William Schettine when I was younger,” Lewis said, “and then I ran into him again at the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita a couple years back. We talked for a while, and now I train privately for him.”
Lewis moved east from California last summer to work for Schettine and even won with her first starter for him on July 26 at Saratoga.
Now stabled at Gulfstream, Lewis says she has a mixed stock of about 30 horses ranging from un-raced 3-year-olds to proven older horses.
“We have some young horses that haven’t raced yet, but we also have some older horses,” said Lewis, whose parents, Penny and Jim Lewis, were both trainers. “It’s a pretty good mix of young and older – both claimers and allowance horses.”
Schettine’s Piscitelli is on the also-eligible list for opening day’s fifth race, a second-level allowance event scheduled for 1 1/16 miles on the Gulfstream turf. The 4-year-old is a Grade 3-placed son of Victory Gallop and finished a close fourth in the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Santa Anita.
Lewis also trains 8-year-old Wicked B. Havior who boasts a career record of 4-1-2 in 13 starts, but has not raced since taking a Gulfstream allowance by 3 ¾ lengths last March.
Lewis is excited about lightly-raced Richmond, whom Schettine owns in partnership with William Haines. The 5-year-old son of Smarty Jones has only raced three times but has hit the board in all three, exiting a six-length allowance win at Penn National on June 4.
“A lot of our older horses are coming off pretty long layoffs, so we’ll see what happens when they get back to the track,” said Lewis, who saddled her first winner at Tampa Bay Downs in 1989. “But all of our horses are training well, and I’m looking forward to the start of the meet.”
Lewis’ last win at Gulfstream came on Feb. 24, 2006. A lot has changed since then.
“Well, the casino is new, and the stores,” said Lewis, who first got noticed on the national Thoroughbred scene when she saddled American Royale for a victory in the 1991 Adirondack (G2) at Saratoga at the young age of 22. “I think all the additions are great. The casino and stores are almost guaranteed to get new people here and expose them to horse racing, and that’s what the industry needs.”
With so many additions, and having been away for so long, it understandably took Lewis some time to get acclimated to her surroundings this winter. With a full barn of horses ready to run in her return to south Florida, Lewis hopes she’ll be able to acclimate herself to the Gulfstream Park winner’s circle on a number of occasions.
Sacco Barn in Position to Fire Early and Often
Barn No. 1 in the Gulfstream Park stable area houses the horses of trainer Gregg Sacco. Every car either entering or leaving the backside has to drive right past it.
With all the action in and around the Sacco barn lately, you would have thought the 45-year-old conditioner was giving something away. Sacco sent out a number of his top runners to work over the Gulfstream Park main track, led by the ultra-consistent filly Debonair Darling. The 4-year-old daughter of Formal Dinner breezed four furlongs in 48.85 seconds and will likely travel cross-country to Santa Anita for her first start of 2011.
“Debonair Darling worked great and was well within herself. She’s going to California for the Sunshine Millions (Distaff on Jan. 29),” said Sacco, whose filly has finished on the board in 10 of 12 lifetime starts and is exiting back-to-back second-place finishes in overnight stakes at Monmouth Park.
Another Sacco runner likely for the Sunshine Millions is Grade 3 winner Unbridled Essence, who is expected to make her next start in the $300,000 Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf at Gulfstream on Jan. 29.
“She won the Grade 3 Matchmaker at Monmouth over the summer,” Sacco said. “She’s doing very well right now and will breeze next week.”
Also likely to be stakes bound from the Sacco barn are Ima Jersey Girl, who finished second in the filly division of the Jersey Juvenile at Monmouth on Nov. 13, and Neversaidiwassweet, who won the Grade 3 Miesque at Hollywood Park last out for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer and has since been transferred to Sacco by owner Red Oak Stables. Neversaidiwassweet, a 2-year-old daughter of Eurosilver, is likely to kick off her 2011 campaign in Gulfstream’s $100,000 Sweetest Chant on Jan. 22.
During the month of January, Sacco expects to have a number of solid contenders in the allowance ranks as well.
Feel That Fire, a 3-year-old daughter of Lightnin N Thunder who broke her maiden against colts at Monmouth Park on Nov. 21, is entered to run in Friday’s third race, a six-furlong allowance.
E. Street Shuffle enters the Gulfstream meeting off a maiden-breaking win at Monmouth Park last out. The 3-year-old Pulpit colt put in an impressive work at Gulfstream Park last week and sparkled during a four-furlong breeze under Joe Bravo last week.
The Sacco barn is also high on Loving Dove, a 3-year-old Mo Mon colt who won the colt division of the Jersey Juvenile last out at Monmouth Park.
Rule Set to Return to Action in Saturday’s Hal’s Hope
WinStar Farm’s Rule is expected to make his first start since his third-place finish in last year’s Florida Derby in Saturday’s $100,000 Hal’s Hope (G3).
The Todd Pletcher-trained 4-year-old colt had won four straight races going into the Florida Derby, in which he pressed a swift pace and held well to finish third as the favorite behind late-running Ice Box and Pleasant Prince.
The Hal’s Hope, which will be run at a mile, drew 16 nominations.
The $100,000 Spectacular Bid, a six-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds, will be co-featured on Saturday’s program.
Sunday’s card will be highlighted by the 54th running of the $100,000 Fort Lauderdale (G3), a 1-1/16-mile turf race for 4-year-olds and up.