Alley Oop Oop, Bad Debt Among 11 Entered for Holiday Turf Stakes

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Gulfstream Park will observe the first live Fourth of July Thoroughbred program in its 74-year history Thursday with the running of the $100,000 Armed Forces Stakes.

A field of 11, including two main track-only horses, was entered Saturday for the 1 1/16-mile holiday turf stakes for Florida-bred horses.

Alley Oop Oop, a winner of his most recent start, is expected to receive support at the betting windows on the strength of his solid body of work since being switched to turf racing last fall. The son of Monsieur Cat had raced on dirt in 17 races with a measure of success before trying turf for the first time at Calder last September. The Jacks or Better Farm’s homebred responded to the grassy going with a victory by three-quarters of a length.

“It didn’t take me by surprise at all. It was something overdue to do, because his father, Monsieur Cat, was better on the turf than dirt,” said trainer Stanley Gold, noting that Alley Oop Oop’s dam, Nizy’s Lizzie, had produced siblings that preferred turf. “Early on, when he was younger we had some soundness issues with him and never really got to get him on the turf. When we did, he did what I thought he could do, and he’s pretty much maintained his form on the grass.”

Alley Oop Oop has raced exclusively on turf in his last 10 races, producing three victories and reaching graded stakes-placed status with a close second in the Tampa Bay Stakes (G3) in February. Alley Oop Oop has proven to be a consistent campaigner on grass, beaten by no more than 3 ¾ lengths in any of his races.

“I think the timing of the run is the most important thing with him. He’s ratable, but he has enough speed that he can be close up,” said Gold, whose trainee will be ridden by regular jockey Fernando Jara. “If he stays too close and they go too fast, he doesn’t get to finish. If he stays too far back and they don’t come back, he doesn’t get there in time.”

One of those times when he couldn’t quite get there in time came in the $125,000 Bonnie Heath Turf Handicap, in which he finished in third, a nose and a head behind victorious Bad Debt, last fall at Calder.

Bad Debt, currently stabled at Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland, was entered by trainer Michael Trombetta Saturday in the Armed Forces.

“He’s scheduled to leave Fair Hill Sunday,” said Trombetta, who didn’t fully commit his 6-year-old gelding to the stakes. “It’s a long way to ship, but we’re taking a serious look at the race.”

Since being claimed by Trombetta for owner Robert Leibner in June 2010, Bad Debt has produced 10 victories while proving to be a consistent check-getter.

“He’s been a gem,” said Trombetta, whose horse has finished in the money in 28 of 34 starts on turf. “He’s been very good to us.”

The holiday Thoroughbred card will be accompanied by several free activities during the afternoon and evening. Between 1-4 p.m. at Champions Plaza, Fourth of July celebration for children will include face painting, arts and crafts, music and dancing, along with popcorn and cotton candy. Following the last race, Gulfstream will stage a free Kids Play Zone between 5-11 p.m. with a rock-climbing wall, carnival games, pony rides, live band and a free laser light show.

All-Star Jockeys to Kick Off Monday’s Summer Meet Opener

Gulfstream’s historic summer meet will get underway on Monday, July 1 with an eight-race program that will be highlighted by special appearances by two-time riding champ Javier Castellano, Hall of Famers John Velazquez and Edgar Prado, and Joel Rosario, who will greet fans and sign autographs and memorabilia, as well as compete on the eight-race program.

Rosario, who rode Orb to victories in the Besilu Stable Fountain of Youth (G2) and Besilu Stables Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream before his triumph in this year’s Kentucky Derby (G1), and Prado, a two-time riding champion at Gulfstream, will be the most active of the four with five scheduled mounts each. Castellano was named on three horses and Velazquez has accepted two mounts.