Phantom Currency Launches Comeback in $100,000 Appleton (G3)
One-Mile Turf Stakes Marks First Start in 400 Days for G2 Winner
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Susan and Jim Hill’s Phantom Currency, more than a year since becoming a graded-stakes winner over the same course, is set to launch his comeback in Saturday’s $100,000 Kitten’s Joy Appleton (G3) at Gulfstream Park.
The 70th running of the one-mile Appleton for 4-year-olds and up on turf is part of a blockbuster program that includes 10 stakes, six graded, worth $2.2 million anchored by the $1 million Curlin Florida Derby (G1) presented by Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms at Xalapa, one of the country’s premier Triple Crown preps.
Post time for the first of 14 races is 11:30 a.m.
Phantom Currency will be racing for the first time in 400 days after developing a soft tissue injury following a front-running three-quarter-length triumph in the 1 3/8-mile Mac Diarmida (G2), his second straight victory, both on the Gulfstream turf. He recuperated at Margaux Farm in Midway, Ky., owned by the Hills, who are natives of Calgary, Alberta.
“We gave him plenty of time,” trainer Brian Lynch said. “He went through the full rehabilitation program there. They’ve done a great job getting him ready for us, and we’ve been able to just train straight on with him. We haven’t missed a beat.”
Phantom Currency, a gelded 6-year-old son of Grade 1-winning multimillionaire Goldencents, has been breezing regularly since mid-December on the grass at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach County, for his return. Most recently he went five furlongs in 57.05 seconds March 27, fastest of 17 horses.
“I think he’ll run a big race fresh,” Lynch said. “I think he’s got a lovely work pattern coming into the race. We’re just so happy to have him back in the barn and have him back to what we think might possibly be a very good year for him.”
Each of Phantom Currency’s five career wins have come in front-running fashion and Lynch expects that to be the case again, due both to the layoff and the shorter distance. Phantom Currency hasn’t raced at a mile since running sixth in a September 2020 optional claiming allowance at Kentucky Downs.
“No doubt he’s going to be fresh and I think he’ll leave there running,” Lynch said. “The mile is maybe an awkward distance for him because they can go quite quick and they may like to pressure him. If he was to be left alone I think we’ve got him fit enough to run a big one.”
Irad Ortiz Jr. will become the sixth different rider in as many races to climb aboard Phantom Currency, who drew Post 7 in a field of nine.
“I love these older handicap horses that he’s starting to turn into. It’s like training a heavyweight boxer. They’re lovely to be around,” Lynch said. “We were hoping we might have had him ready a bit earlier, but it’s just nice to have him ready for this one. It’s a track that he’s always showed a fondness for. It’d be a great day to win one on the Florida Derby card, especially with him on the comeback.”
Steve Goldfine, Kari Provost and Jeff Zlonis’ Gray’s Fable is also coming off an extended break between starts, not having raced since finishing fifth in the King Edward (G2) last August at Woodbine. Trained by Hall of Famer Roger Attfield, the 7-year-old Gio Ponti gelding led all the way to spring a 7-1 upset of last year’s Appleton, which remains his lone stakes victory.
Calumet Farm’s Grade 3-winning homebred English Bee will be making his third start at the Championship Meet for trainer Graham Motion, having run third by two lengths in the 1 1/8-mile Fort Lauderdale (G2) Dec. 18 and third by four lengths in the 1 1/16-mile Canadian Turf (G3) March 5. In between, the 6-year-old son of turf champion English Channel was fourth by 3 ½ lengths in the Tampa Bay (G3), also at 1 1/16 miles.
Overall, English Bee has finished third or better in 12 of 25 starts with six wins including the Virginia Derby (G3) and Parx Derby in successive 2019 starts, and $504,740 in purse earnings. Championship Meet-leading rider Luis Saez gets the call from outermost Post 9.
“I think it makes sense to bring him back and take advantage of the course there,” Motion said. “He’s just a hard-knocking guy and I think he fits with these horses. I just think he really likes the firm turf. He’s made over half a million dollars. He’s such a cool horse.”
Diversified Pedigree Acquisitions Inc.’s Carpenters Call is making his stakes and Gulfstream debut in an attempt to extend his win streak to four races. The Gerald Bennett trainee has finished first or second in five of six career starts, the last three at Tampa Bay Downs since being moved to the turf.
Also entered are Stuart Janney III’s Scarlett Sky, homebred winner of the 2021 Transylvania (G3) for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey; Skull Stable’s 7-year-old Noble Indy, a graded-stakes winner on dirt at 3 and fourth last out in the Canadian Turf; Order and Law, racing first off the claim for owner-trainer Daniel Pita out of a 4 ½-length triumph Feb. 24 at Gulfstream at the course and distance; WellSpring Stables’ Safe Conduct, winner of the 2021 Queen’s Plate last August who ran 11th in the Mac Diarmida; and Woodslane Farm’s Wolfie’s Dynaghost, fifth after setting the pace in the March 12 Challenger (G3) at Tampa.