Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Florida Derby Prospects Likely to Emerge from Friday Feature

Lori and George Hall’s Atomic Rain and Jayeff B Stable’s Chef are prominent in a field of eight 3-year-olds entered in Friday’s 1 1/8 miles allowance feature at Gulfstream Park, a race almost certain to yield a contender or two for the $750,000 Florida Derby (G1) to be run over the track and distance on Sat., Mar. 28.

Jockey Joe Bravo rides Atomic Rain for trainer Kelly Breen as he bids to bounce back from a dull seventh-place finish as one of the favorites in the Sam Davis Stakes (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 14.

Atomic Rain is a Smart Strike colt purchased for $170,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sales. He had not finished worse than second in four starts prior to the Tampa Bay race, apparently not liking the surface there. He finished second to division leader Old Fashioned in the Remsen Stakes (G2) at Aqueduct in late November to complete his juvenile campaign and was a game second by a neck behind Free Country in a Gulfstream allowance at 1 1/8 miles on Jan. 8.

Chef makes only his second career start after a very impressive debut victory here on Feb. 14, scoring by 4¼ lengths going seven furlongs under jockey C.H. Marquez, Jr., who gets the return call Friday. Trained by Alan Goldberg, the chestnut son of Smarty Jones was a $400,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase.

Another contender to watch in Friday’s race will be the brilliant, but inconsistent Well Positioned, a son of Awesome Again owned by Paul Pompa, Jr., trained by Pat Reynolds and to be ridden by Edgar Prado.

Well Positioned made a big impression breaking his maiden going a mile at Aqueduct by 14¼ lengths in November in his second start, but flopped in his 3-year-old debut here on Jan. 31 when finishing a non-threatening sixth in a one-mile allowance won by Take the Points, who came back to finish second in the Sham Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita last Saturday.

Completing the field for Friday’s feature are Mark Grier’s Copper Cascade, Julien Leparoux; New Life Stable and Equus Racing’s Stately Character, Cornelio Velasquez; James Scatuorchio’s Idol Maker, Chris DeCarlo; Ann and Lloyd Ferrentino’s Zooming White Star, Pedro Monterrey, Jr.; and WinStar Farm’s Al Khali, John. R. Velazquez.

Hello Broadway in High Gear in Gulfstream Workout

Elizabeth Valando’s graded-stakes-placed 3-year-old Hello Broadway breezed sharply Wednesday morning at Gulfstream Park.

Under exercise rider Carl Allsop, the son of Broken Vow worked six furlongs in 1:14 in his latest drill since finishing second behind Capt. Candyman Can in the seven-furlong Hutcheson Stakes (G2) here on Jan. 29.

“It went good. Just what I wanted,” said Tagg. “He seemed pretty relaxed this morning.”

Tagg is committed to the two-turn, 1 1/16 mile Tampa Bay Derby (G3) on Sat., Mar. 14 despite a desire to stay at his South Florida base. His three races as a 2-year-old in New York were all one-turn races, including a second-place finish in the Nashua Stakes (G3) to close that campaign on Nov. 2.

“I like the progression of the races to the Florida Derby (G1) this year, but it just didn’t fit my horse,” said Tagg. “I had originally lined it up and thought the Fountain of Youth at a mile would have been great to get to the Florida Derby, but I wasn’t thinking at the time that it would have made five straight one-turn races. The Florida Derby would be his only two-turn race before the (Kentucky) Derby (G1) and I can’t risk that.”

For now, Tagg’s chosen road to producing his sixth career Kentucky Derby starter, and making an appearance for the fourth straight year since winning in 2003 with Funny Cide, will take Hello Broadway from Tampa to New York for the Wood Memorial (G1) on Sat., Apr. 4.

“We don’t have much choice now,” said Tagg. “If he can win in Tampa, we go to New York. If he can win there, on we go to Churchill.”

Tagg also reported Lael Stable’s Frolic’s Dream emerged from her third-place finish in Sunday’s Davona Dale Stakes (G2) well, but he has not committed to where the recently purchased 3-year-old daughter of Smoke Glacken will head next. She had won the Forward Gal Stakes (G3) for trainer Marty Wolfson before a private sale shifted her to Tagg.

“I think I might give her a six-week break,” said Tagg. “I might have run her back a little quickly. I probably should have looked harder at how much her last race took out of her, but Marty had her in such great condition that we decided to stick in the race. She still finished third in a Grade 2 stakes.”

Garcia on the Road; Back at Gulfstream Sunday

Jockey Alan Garcia, 23, has made a big impression in his first full season riding at Gulfstream Park, currently third in the standings with 34 victories, but he will miss most of this week here with mounts in Dubai Thursday night and at Aqueduct in New York Friday and Saturday before returning Sunday.

Garcia’s mounts Saturday include West Point Thoroughbreds and partners’ undefeated 3-year-old Mr. Fantasy in the $250,000 Gotham Stakes (G3) and Shadwell Stable’s 5-year-old Argentine-bred Lucky Island in the $100,000 Toboggan Handicap (G3), both for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.

Garcia trails leading Gulfstream jockey Kent Desormeaux (36) by only two wins in the standings and Julien Leparoux second (35) by one. John. R. Velazquez ranks fourth with 30 wins and Edgar Prado and Jose Lezcano are tied for fifth with 29 tallies each in this season’s highly-competitive title chase.

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