Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Little Mike & Data Link Clash in Canadian Turf Saturday

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - Priscilla Vaccarezza’s 5-year-old gelding Little Mike and Stuart Janney III’s 4-year-old Data Link are a combined eight wins from nine starts over the Gulfstream Park turf course over the last two seasons. They are set to face off for the first time as the likely choices in Saturday’s $150,000 Canadian Turf Stakes (G3) going one mile in a field of eight older horses.

Regular jockey Joe Bravo will be aboard Little Mike for trainer Dale Romans as he bids for a fifth consecutive victory going back to last year. The Florida homebred by Spanish Steps swept the Ft. Lauderdale Stakes (G3), Canadian Turf and Appleton Stakes (G3) here last year, punctuated by a close-up sixth in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1) in his lone loss over the course.

After Gulfstream last spring, Little Mike was being pointed for a start in the Turf Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day, but suffered a cracked shin and was on the sidelines until returning to competition here on Dec. 22 with a game allowance victory. He followed up with another wire-to-wire score in the Sunshine Millions Turf on Jan. 28.

Alex Solis has been the regular rider of Data Link in his last six starts and will be aboard Saturday for trainer Shug McGaughey. The Kentucky homebred by War Front has won four of eight career starts, including four of six on turf after finishing sixth and fourth in main track sprints to begin his career at Saratoga in the summer of 2010.

Data Link won a pair of allowance races here last winter after breaking his maiden at Aqueduct in late November of 2010, and made it three-for three over the Gulfstream course winning a Dec. 4 allowance in his first start since a sub-par effort when fourth in the Shady Character overnight at Belmont Park on Oct. 28.

“It was just a bog at Belmont that day,” said McGaughey Wednesday of Data Link’s performance in the Shady Character. “It looks like its going to be firm Saturday, which is what we’d like to see, but if it rained I think we’d be all right. We’ll look to keep him in middle distance races for now. We have several nice turf (stakes) horses (Boisterous and Air Support) and we’ll spot them around.”

Trainer Todd Pletcher sends out a solid contender in WinStar Farm’s 5-year-old Doubles Partner with jockey Julien Leparoux to ride as he makes his first start since finishing a game third, beaten a length for it all by Get Stormy in the Turf Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day, May 7.

A Florida-bred by Rock Hard Ten, Doubles Partner won an allowance race here in February of 2010 and the American Turf (G2) at Churchill in late April that spring. He began his 2011 campaign finishing second by three-quarters of a length in an allowance race here in early February and won the Tampa Bay Stakes (G3) in March before the good try in the Turf Classic.

Juddmonte Farms’ 4-year-old English homebred Mutual Trust makes his second U.S. start with jockey J.L. Castanon named to ride for trainer Bill Mott. The son of Cacique had a rough trip making his American debut as the favorite in the Ft. Lauderdale Stakes (G3) on Jan. 14, placed fifth after finishing sixth, although beaten only 1 ¼ lengths for it all in a wild finish.

Mutual Trust won three of five starts in France last year for trainer Andre Fabre, scoring his biggest victory in the Prix Jean Prat (G1) at Chantilly before finishing unplaced behind Immortal Verse and Goldikova in the Prix Jacques le Marois (G1) at Deauville in mid-August.

Completing the field for the Canadian Turf are Belle Meadows Farm and Lael Stable’s Beau Choix, Joe Rocco, Jr.; Stone Farm’s Trend, Paco Lopez; G. Watts Humphrey, Jr. and St. George Farm Racing’s Seruni, Jon Court; and Boice Brook Stable’s Perfect Footprint, Melanie Pinto.

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