Traffic Song Testing Stakes Company in $100,000 Sand Springs
Among 10 Stakes, Six Graded, Worth $2.2M on Florida Derby (G1) Card
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – After two solid performances during Gulfstream Park’s Championship Meet, speedy Traffic Song will step up into stakes company for the first time Saturday in the $100,000 Sand Springs.
Veteran trainer Jimmy Toner – who saddled his first winner 62 years ago – has had to be patient with the 4-year-old daughter of Cross Traffic, co-owned by Burning Daylight Farms and Rebecca Galbraith. She did not compete as a 2-year-old and made her first appearance in a race in March 2021 at Gulfstream Park.
It took three tries before she broke her maiden at Monmouth Park in early June. Since returning to South Florida, Traffic Song has finished second at one mile by three-quarters of a length Dec. 3 and picked up her second career victory by 1 ½ lengths at the Sand Springs distance of 1 1/16 miles on turf Jan. 29.
In the seventh running of the Sand Springs, which is part of Gulfstream’s stakes-rich Curlin Florida Derby (G1) presented by Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm at Xalapa program, Traffic Song drew the rail in the field of eight. That group of older fillies and mares will include the Danny Gargan-trained Stunning Princess, who closed well to nip Traffic Song Dec. 3.
“She’s a nice filly, who came to hand late,” Toner said. “We shipped her down here to run in December and she ran a good race. She got beat by a pretty nice filly. We ran her back on Pegasus Day and she did win. She’s been training great.”
Toner, 81, has had great success with turf fillies during his long career that began as a teen-age hotwalker at Garden State Park in the 1950s and is now in its eighth decade. He developed the 1999 champion Soaring Softly, winner of the inaugural running of the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf (G1). Among his other filly turf standouts are Memories of Silver, Grade 1 winner of the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup and the Beverly D., her daughter Winter Memories, and Wonder Again. Equibase statistics show that he has trained 10 Grade 1-winning horses and has 15 Grade 1 victories on his resume.
In April 1960 at Aqueduct, the 19-year-old Philadelphia native was credited with his first win as a trainer with Battle Empress. Though Toner was an assistant to Bill Mitchell, and was handling a division of Mitchell’s runners, he was required by New York to have a head trainer’s license and was credited with his first career victory. He opened his own stable in 1963.
Toner, long a stalwart on the New York Racing Association circuit before relocating to the Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md., has 12 horses at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach County.
In her last 2021 start in New York October 1, Traffic Song attended the pace early in the 1 1/8 miles allowance, assumed the lead entering the stretch, but weakened approaching the wire and ended up fifth.
“We were just starting to get in the groove with her there,” Toner said. “We put her in a tracking spot at a mile and an eighth. The bottom line is, I think she is a mile to a mile-and-a-sixteenth-type horse who likes to be on the lead, which she showed the last time. She’s a little more brave on the lead.”
Traffic Song turned in a handy five-furlong bullet work in 59.05 seconds Saturday, and Toner said she is ready to try to add some black type to her resume.
“Hopefully, she can get away with a little speed on her own,” Toner said, “and we’ll see what happens.”
Jose Ortiz will ride Traffic Song.
Stunning Princess, co-owned by R.A. Hill and breeder Brereton Jones, has finished on the board in all five starts since blinkers were added in March 2021. She was a half-length second in the Tropical Parks Oaks Dec. 26 at Gulfstream and was third in the Endeavour (G3) Feb. 5 at Tampa Bay Downs. She drew Post 5 and will be ridden by Irad Ortiz, Jr.
The French-bred 5-year-old Crystal Cliffs, trained by Graham Motion, is scheduled to make her first start in nearly 10 months and will leave from Post 4 with Tyler Gaffalione.
Though she has raced just six times in her first three seasons, Crystal Cliffs has shown ability, never finishing worse than third. The partnership of Michael Dubb, Madaket Stables and Wonder Stable purchased Crystal Cliffs after her eight-length victory over a synthetic surface in December 2019 at the regional Hippodrome de Pau track in southwest France, 30 miles from the border with Spain.
Crystal Cliffs won her U.S. debut at Churchill Downs May 31, 2000 and was second by a head to Harvey’s Lil Goil as the favorite in the Regret (G3) a month later. She raced just twice in 2021: second by a nose in the Dahlia at Pimlico April 24 and third by a 2 ¾ lengths in the Eatontown (G3) at Monmouth Park June 20.
“She’s coming off a break. I hope she’s fit enough; I think she should be,” Motion said. “She’s really filled out and kind of grown up. She’s obviously had some soundness issues, that’s why her races have been somewhat limited but we’ve always given her the time. She’s been breezing well so I kind of wanted to take advantage of the fact that she was there and doing well.”
Grand Ave Girl, a daughter of Runhappy, has finished in the top three in seven of her eight career starts. The David Fawkes trainee drew Post 2 for her fourth start of 2022.
Annette Allen’s 5-year-old Stolen Holiday is a half-sister to Group 1 winners Master of Hounds and Eishin Apollon. In her first try in a stakes race for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey, Stolen Holiday will be ridden from Post 3 by Hall of Famer Javier Castellano.
Franco Meli’s homebred Il Malocchio was third to champion Letruska in the Royal Delta (G3) Feb. 26. She drew the outside post in and will be ridden by Edwin Gonzalez.
Designed by Kitten returns to stakes company two starts after being claimed by trainer Dale Romans for Sea Warrior Stables. Miguel Vasquez will ride from Post 6.
Championship Meet-leading trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. will saddle 10-time winner Sugar Fix, who drew post 7. The Florida-bred won the 2021 Claiming Crown Tiara.