$200,000 Pan American (G2) Marks Return of G1 Winner Gufo
Richest of Five Turf Stakes on Florida Derby (G1) Day Program
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Otter Bend Stables’ Gufo, a multiple Grade 1 winner unraced since the first off-the-board finish of his career in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1), is set to open his 5-year-old season in Saturday’s $200,000 Pan American (G2) presented by Rood and Riddle at Gulfstream Park.
The 61st running of the 1 ½-mile Pan American 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.
A chestnut son of European Group 1 winner Declaration of War, Gufo had never run worse than third in 12 starts before coming up empty in his Breeders’ Cup debut. He entered the race off a third in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) and back-to-back wins in the Sword Dancer (G1) and Grand Couturier, all at 1 ½ miles.
“There were perhaps a lot of factors going against him that day, pace being one of them,” trainer Christophe Clement’s son and assistant, Miguel, said of the Breeders’ Cup. “He had a very bad draw. He never settled throughout the first part of the race because it was a paceless race. He was perhaps a bit too keen, and it was perhaps one race too many for the campaign. Previously he was never out of the money. He is very consistent and he had never run a bad race.”
Each of his last four starts came with the addition of blinkers, which Miguel Clement said Gufo would not wear in his comeback race. Joel Rosario, recent winner of his first Eclipse Award as champion jockey, will be aboard for the seventh straight start, breaking from Post 3 in a field of seven.
“We will take the blinkers off and it will be up to Joel Rosario to figure it out. This is a horse with a lot of ability, and the trip has to be timed just right,” Clement said. “He has a great turn of foot, so we’re looking forward to getting him back to the races. I’m excited for him.”
Gufo became a Grade 1 winner in the 2020 Belmont Derby Invitational (G1) going 1 ¼ miles and has come within half a length of winning two more. In successive starts he was beaten a neck when third in the 2020 Hollywood Derby, at 1 1/8 miles, shorter than his preferred distance, and a nose in the 1 3/8-mile Man o’ War to open 2021.
A five-time stakes winner including the 2020 Kent (G3), in which he set the Delaware Park course record for 1 1/8 miles on the grass, Gufo gave Clement his 2,000th career victory in a March 27, 2020 optional claiming allowance on the Gulfstream turf, his third lifetime start. He is owned by retired Dr. Stephen Cainelli of Otter Bend and co-bred by Cainelli and longtime friend Dr. John Little, also retired.
“He’s been with us since the very beginning,” Clement said. “We’re very fond of him.”
Gufo is 3-for-3 lifetime on the Gulfstream turf, also having graduated in a December 2019 maiden special weight over future stablemate Voodoo Zip before earning his first stakes victory over 10 rivals in the May 2020 English Channel. He shows seven timed works since mid-February for his return, where he is second choice on the morning line at 9-5.
“He’s training very forwardly,” Christophe Clement said. “I don’t have quite as many breezes as I wanted to, but his works have been very good so I thought we might as well try him.”
Paradise Farms Corp. and David Staudacher’s Temple is the lone horse returning from last year’s Pan Am, in which he ran sixth behind upset winner Churn N Burn. After placing three times, including back-to-back editions of Gulfstream’s W.L. McKnight (G3) in 2021 and 2022, the 6-year-old gelding became a graded-stakes winner for the first time in the March 5 Mac Diarmida (G2).
“He ran well. The setup was probably in his favor,” Nolan Ramsey, assistant to trainer Mike Maker said. “It was a great ride by Jose [Ortiz], so no complaints there. We hope to have the same setup. He obviously likes the track and likes the distance. We couldn’t be bringing him in in any better form, so we’ll hope for the best.”
Ortiz returns to ride Temple (5-2) from Post 6.
Maker also entered Three Diamonds Farm’s Tide of the Sea, who ran eighth after stalking the pace in the Mac Diarmida. The 6-year-old son of turf champion English Channel won the 2021 McKnight over the Gulfstream turf and last visited the winner’s circle in the 1 ½-mile Japan Turf Cup last October at Laurel Park.
Tyler Gaffalione has the call on Tide of the Sea (20-1) from Post 4.
Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Alex Daigneault’s Abaan enters the Pan American having run fourth in the Mac Diarmida after beating Temple by two lengths to win the Jan. 29 McKnight, also contested at 1 ½ miles. The Mac Diarmida result snapped a three-race win streak for 5-year-old Abaan that included his first stakes victory in the two-mile H. Allen Jerkens Dec. 24 at Gulfstream.
“He’s been just another [Todd] Pletcher masterpiece, really,” Eclipse founder and president Aron Wellman said. “He’s not an easy horse to train. He’s got his quirks and it took us a little time to find out what his niche was, but now that he’s found his niche as a turf marathoner I think he’s made his claim for one of the top in the division. We’re eager for him to redeem himself and hopefully he’ll do that.”
The typically front-running Abaan, the 8-5 program favorite, found himself uncharacteristically far back in the Mac Diarmida, running eighth and in traffic through a half-mile before attempting a bid on the outside under Championship Meet-leading rider Luis Saez, who gets a return call from Post 5.
“He didn’t leave the rail running and lost his position and it got real messy for about the first half-mile, five-eighths,” Wellman said. “Luis had to use him and make a bit of a premature move up the backside and then really wide around the turn. All things considered, I actually think he ran a pretty admirable race and probably didn’t get enough credit for the effort itself. Hopefully we’ll have a little bit cleaner trip on Saturday.”
Daniel Alonso’s Novo Sol is entered to make his second North American start in the Pan American. Group 1-placed in his native Brazil last spring, he was a three-quarter-length winner of his U.S. debut going 1 1/16 miles in a Jan. 5 optional claiming allowance originally scheduled for the grass but moved to Gulfstream’s Tapeta course.
“He came to us in late October and ran in January, so we had him for about 2 ½ months,” Championship Meet-leading trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. said. “He’s a great-looking horse, and he trains like a decent horse. You’re always a bit reserved at first to know how they’ll run, but I thought the way he won his first time in America was impressive. Now he’ll have to step up in class again and we’ll see how it goes.”
Novo Sol (20-1) will break from the rail with Irad Ortiz Jr. up.
Phipps Stable homebred Bakers Bay (20-1), sixth in the McKnight for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey; and Patricia Generazio homebred Mid-Day Image (12-1), a front-running 5 ¼-length optional claiming allowance winner going 1 1/16 miles Feb. 27 at Gulfstream, complete the field.