Vexor on Fast Track for $100,000 Spectacular Bid Opening Day
By Ed Gray
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – John Kimmel isn’t about to underestimate the competition in Saturday’s $100,000 Spectacular Bid Stakes at Gulfstream Park, but the veteran trainer’s primary concern will be focused on the sky.
With partly cloudy skies and only a slight chance of showers forecast for the opening day of Gulfstream’s 2011-2012 meeting, it looks like Kimmel will be able to relax and concentrate on Vexor’s task at hand in the six-furlong stakes for 2-year-olds.
First race post is 12:35 p.m.
Gulfstream’s opening day will kick off with the popular Breakfast at Gulfstream from 7-10 a.m. The first handicapping seminar of the series will start at 11 a.m. in the Sport of Kings with special guest, Steven Crist, author and editor and publisher of the Daily Racing Form.
Vexor is the most accomplished colt in the field of eight, having captured the Nashua Stakes (G2) at Belmont Park on Oct. 2, but in his most recent start in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint over a wet Churchill Downs track on Nov. 4, he faded to last in a field of nine. Kimmel, though, is confident that the effort doesn’t reflect his colt’s ability.
“He’s a horse that has a particular dislike for ‘off’ racetracks. If you look at his two races where the tracks were muddy or sloppy, like the Hopeful or the Breeders’ Cup races, he didn’t even try,” Kimmel said. “It’s unfortunate. His races on either side of those races were all good.”
Prior to his recent disappointment, the son of Wildcat Heir won an extended stretch duel to capture the six-furlong Nashua by nearly a length. That effort was preceded by an eighth-place finish in the Hopeful (G1) over a sloppy Saratoga track. The Florida-bred colt earned his way into the Hopeful with a sharp front-running maiden-breaking score over a fast Saratoga racing surface in his second lifetime start.
“The horse had trained really well before his first start. After that he got a little breather. He had a little sensitive shin. We did a little blister on his shin, and when he ran back the second time he ran a very, very good race,” said Kimmel, noting that his colt had earned strong speed figures with the Ragozin Sheets. “He beat some quality horses and came back really well.”
Kimmel expects Vexor to return from his subpar showing at Churchill Downs.
“I thought he recovered extremely quick. By the time I got back to the barn, he seemed to be very happy. It didn’t take him a lot of time to cool out, that’s for sure,” he said. “After the Breeders’ Cup race, I sent him back to Gold Mark Farms, where he’s been training. We sent him right to Florida instead of shipping him from Churchill Downs all the way back to New York.”
Vexor, who is rated second in the morning-line at 3-l in the eight-horse Spectacular Bid, will be ridden by Javier Castellano, who was aboard for his maiden score last summer.
“He’s bred for speed and he’s a Florida-bred, so hopefully, he can have a big campaign,” said Kimmel, who will have 21 horses stabled at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream Park’s satellite training facility in Boynton Beach.
Luke of York, who is undefeated in two career starts, has been installed as the 5-2 morning-line favorite. Trained by James DeVito, the deep-closing son of Put It Back captured his debut by a nose at Arlington Park on Sept. 24. The Florida-bred colt came back to post a nose triumph in the $125,000 Keeneland 75th Anniversary Stakes on Oct. 15. Rajiv Maragh has the return mount aboard Luke of York, who will be making his first start on dirt after winning both starts on Polytrack surfaces.
Ancient Rome from the powerful Anthony Dutrow barn is rated third in the morning line at 4-1 on the strength of his seven-length triumph in a Delaware Park maiden event on Oct. 22. Joe Rocoo Jr. has been named to ride the son of Roman Ruler.
For Oby, the winner of the $125,000 Jack Price Juvenile Stakes at Calder last time out, and Town Prize, a stakes-place winner of two races in three starts at Woodbine, are both rated at 6-1 in the morning line. Julio Garcia has the return mount on For Oby, while Luis Saez will ride Town Prize for the first time.
Blings Express (Paco Lopez), Jordan’s Image (Daniel Centeno) and Rex’s Last Tour (Fernando Jara) round out the field for the Spectacular Bid, which has been carded as the ninth race on the 10-race opening-day card.