Thursday, March 29, 2012

Orchid, Appleton, Skip Away & Sir Shackleton Complete Florida Derby Day Stakes Line-Up

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - Barbara Hunter’s highly-consistent 6-year-old Kentucky homebred mare Keertana will likely go off favored to defeat eight rival fillies and mares in the $150,000 Orchid Stakes (G2) on Florida Derby Day with jockey Julien Leparoux aboard for trainer Tom Proctor in the 51st edition of the 1 ½ miles turf course fixture.

A daughter of Johar, Keertana will bid to improve one position after she finished second by a length in the 11-furlong The Very One Stakes (G3) over the course on Feb. 25 when beaten a length. Keertana’s career record stands at 28-11-6-7 for earnings of $1,016, 938.

“She’s been remarkable,” said Proctor of Keertana’s consistency. “The few times she’s missed the board, a number of them you can attribute to human error – mine -- beginning with her first two races sprinting at Arlington (Polytrack). In a couple of others she’s finished close-up in fourth and in one case fifth, but got beat only a half-length for it all (Locust Grove Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs in 2010).”

Proctor also noted that Keertana could give her longtime owner-breeder a fourth victory in the Orchid as the late veteran horseman and Gulfstream regular Stanley Rieser sent out her Pattee Canyon to score in 1970, Dogtooth Violet in 1974 and Sans Arc in 1979.

Trainer Shug McGaughey sends out a solid contender in Stuart Janney III’s 5-year-old homebred Hit It Rich with jockey Javier Castellano on a return call. The roan/gray daughter of Smart Strike finished a sharp second last out in the Suwannee River Stakes (G3) over the course on Feb. 11 in her first start since scoring in the 12-furlong Long Island Handicap (G3) at Aqueduct on Nov. 12.

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin sent out Brazilian-bred Here to Win for an 11-to-1 upset over Keertana in The Very One, but will have another challenger in the Orchid with Shadwell Stable’s 4-year-old Aqsaam as she makes her stakes race debut with Rajiv Maragh aboard.

A daughter of Dynaformer, Aqsaam was a $440,000 Keeneland November weanling purchase and has won all three of her career starts, beginning with an ‘off the turf’ seven-furlong race over a ‘sloppy’ track at Saratoga in early September. She came back to win allowance races on turf here on Jan. 8 and Jan. 29.

Completing the field for the Orchid are Blue Devil Racing Stable’s Zapparition, Earle Mack LLC’s Clarinet, Catesby Clay’s Woodford Belle, Mark Gittens’ Shimmering Moment, Farnsworth Stable’s Happy Clapper and Lael Stable’s Senada..

Brilliant Speed Returns in Appleton Stakes

The biggest name in the field of eight older horses drawn for the $100,000 Appleton Stakes (G3) at one mile on turf is Live Oak Plantation’s 4-year-old Florida homebred colt Brilliant Speed as he makes his 2012 season debut with jockey John Velazquez aboard for trainer Tom Albertrani. It will be his first start since a solid third-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5.

A son of Dynaformer, Brilliant Speed was racing on turf here early last year placing in both the Dania Beach Stakes and Hallandale Beach Stakes before winning the Blue Grass Stakes (G1) on Polytrack at Keeneland in April. The victory earned him a chance in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and he finished a respectable sixth, beaten 5 ½ lengths by Animal Kingdom and then third in the Belmont Stakes (G1).

Following a dull try when fifth in the Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) at Saratoga, Brilliant Speed was returned to turf and won the Saranac Stakes (G3) at Saratoga in early September and was a good second in the Jamaica Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park in early October prior to finishing 3 ¼ lengths behind St. Nicholas Abbey in the Breeders’ Cup Turf.

“He’s been training very well,” said Albertrani last week. “If you remember him from last year, he was always a little light framed. He’s matured and more muscled up as an older horse. He’s been training very forwardly.”

A solid threat in the Appleton will be Flying Zee Stable’s 4-year-old Street Game, winner of a one-mile allowance race over the course on Feb. 5 in his first start since mid-August at Saratoga. Jockey Ryan Curatolo will be on hand to ride the son of Street Cry for trainer Phil Serpe.

Street Game showed promise finishing second and third in maiden special races on turf here early last year before winning three straight at Belmont Park in the spring, including the Hill Prince Stakes (G3) by 7 ¼ lengths in mid-June. He went on to set the pace in the Virginia Derby (G2) at Colonial Downs before tiring to fifth and then tailed off to finish seventh in the Hall of Fame Stakes (G2) at Saratoga and was given a break.

Completing the field for the Appleton are Shamrock Farm’s Monument Hill, Gary and Mary West’s Corporate Jungle, Kinsman Stable’s El Commodore, Just For Fun Stable’s Decisive Moment, Belle Meadows Farm and Lael Farm’s Beau Choix and Stone Farm’s Trend.

Where’s Sterling Solid Favorite in Skip Away

Frank Calabrese’s 5-year-old Where’s Sterling finished a very respectable fourth last out behind Hymn Book in the $500,000 Donn Handicap (G1) for trainer Nick Canani and comes beck as the horse to beat in a much softer field of nine older horses drawn for the $100,000 Skip Away Stakes (G3) Saturday at 1 3/16 miles with jockey Joe Rocco, Jr. named to ride.

“He’s ready to go,” said trainer Nick Canani. “We know he likes the Gulfstream track. He’s run two good races here at the meet and had traffic trouble last out in the Donn Handicap. He’s a big horse and he can’t just stop and start. The added distance also should help him.”

A son of Northern Afleet, Where’s Sterling appeared to hit his best stride last summer winning the Philip H. Iselin Stakes (G3) at Monmouth Park in August and finishing second by a half-length in the Hawthorne Gold Cup Handicap (G2) going 1 ¼ miles in Chicago on Oct. 8.

In two starts since then at Gulfstream he finished second by a length to Boys At Tosconova in a one-mile allowance race on Dec. 23 and a close-up fourth in the Donn on Feb. 11 at 1 1/8 miles when beaten 3 ½ lengths for it all by Hymn Book after running into traffic trouble in the stretch.

A contender whose star appears to be on the rise in the Skip Away is Gary and Mary West’s 4-year-old Kentucky homebred Self Control as he makes his stakes race debut with leading jockey Javier Castellano in the saddle for trainer Chad Brown. The son of Lemon Drop Kid put it all together last out winning a 1 1/8 miles allowance race on Mar. 8 by 2 ¾ lengths.

“He’s always been a horse we felt had a lot of talent,” says Brown. “He had some physical problems earlier in his career that we had to get past, and since then there’s been some mental issues with him, getting him to focus. Now, he’s finally getting it all together.”

Completing the field for the Skip Away are Fantasy Lane Stable’s Uptowncharlybrown, Stipa Racing Stable’s Numb Lips, Mary Ellen and Robert Bourque’s Alma d’Oro, Blue Bison Stable’s Praetereo, Azul Dorado’s Dixie Emperor, Janis Whitham’s Fort Larned and R A Hill Stable’s Malibu Glow.

Pletcher Could Hold Strong Hand in Sir Shackleton

Trainer Todd Pletcher has sealed a ninth consecutive Gulfstream meet trainers’ title and could have more than one chance to add another victory in the $70,000 Sir Shackleton Stakes as he has three of the nine older horses entered with WinStar Farm’s Brethren and E. Paul Robsham Stable’s entry of Soaring Stocks and Travelin Man in the 6 ½-furlong test.

Jockey Javier Castellano is named on Brethren for his first start since finishing 11th of 13 in the Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn Park on Apr. 16. The homebred son of Distorted Humor won both of his starts as a 2-year-old at Belmont and Churchill Downs and made it three-for-three in the Sam Davis Stakes (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs early last year before finishing third in the Tampa Bay Derby (G3).

Soaring Stocks is a 4-year-old Florida homebred by Trippi that has already run four times at the meet, winning the last three. He won the Sunshine Millions Sprint on Jan. 28 in his stakes race debut between allowance victories on Jan. 12 and Mar. 11.

Jockey John Velazquez is named on both Soaring Stocks and Travelin Man and both are also entered in the $150,000 Duncan F. Kenner Stakes (G3) at Fair Grounds Sunday where Pletcher has several other stakes runners in action that afternoon.

Travelin Man is another homebred son of Trippi and also has shown a fondness for the Gulfstream track with three wins and a second in as many starts. He won his career debut here in early January last year, finished second in the Hutcheson Stakes (G2) in his second start and won the Swale Stakes (G2) in his third start. He returned from a six-month layoff to win an allowance here on Feb. 9.

Certain to attract plenty of support in the Sir Shackleton is Charles Fipke’s 6-year-old Jersey Town with Edgar Prado aboard for trainer Barclay Tagg. The Kentucky homebred son of Speightstown won the Cigar Mile (G1) at Aqueduct in late November of 2010.

Jersey Town ran well on occasion, but failed to win in four starts last year and makes his appearance since finishing sixth behind Caleb’s Posse in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5 following a runner-up effort in the Forego Stakes (G1) at Saratoga and well-beaten third behind Uncle Mo in the Kelso Handicap (G2) at Belmont.

Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence’s 4-year-old gelding Zero Rate Policy also was entered in both the Sir Shackleton and Duncan F. Kenner. Trained by Terri Pompay, Zero Rate Policy is also by Trippi and finished fourth behind Soaring Stocks last out in the Sunshine Millions Sprint in a somewhat of a disappointing effort.

In two previous starts at the meet, Zero Rate Policy won the Sunshine State Stakes on Dec. 4 and finished a very game second by a nose behind Apriority in the Mr. Prospector Stakes (G3) on Dec. 31

Completing the field of for the Sir Shackleton are Just For Fun Stable’s Dixie Slam, Robert Gerczak’s Action Andy, Pattons Creek Farm’s Will’s Wildcat and Thomas Carey’s Nathan’s H Q.

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