HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Back on May 23, 2010, Michael Trombetta was on the lookout for a horse that could outrun its claiming price when Bad Debt got his attention while finishing third at Belmont Park.
“He ran a pretty good number turf sprinting and caught my eye. I was looking to claim some horses at the time,” said Trombetta, recalling the Belmont race. “I went back and watched the video of the race. Even though he didn’t win, he got over the grass really, really well.”
Since being claimed by Trombetta for owner Robert Liebner, Bad Debt has finished first, second or third in 27 of 35 starts, including 10 victories, while earning more than $500,000.
“He always fires. He always puts in a good effort and he always tries,” Trombetta said. “He’s very unique. He’s a horse who knows what his job is and he gives it his best.”
Bad Debt has been installed as the 2-1 morning-line favorite for Thursday’s $100,000 Armed Forces Stakes, which will highlight Gulfstream Park’s Fourth of July celebration. The 6-year-old gelding finished third in the Grade 3 Red Bank at Monmouth Park two starts back, finishing less than a length behind victorious Za Approval, who went on to finish second in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile at Hollywood Park on June 29.
“We didn’t have a whole lot of races for whatever reason at that time. It was either that or the (Grade 2) Dixie, and the Dixie was really, really tough,” said Trombetta, who named Manoel Cruz to ride Bad Debt in the Armed Forces. “We went in the Red Bank, and he showed up and ran really well.”
Bad Debt was shipped from Trombetta’s base at Fair Hills Training Center in Maryland to Ocala Sunday before shipping Wednesday to Gulfstream for the Armed Forces. Although he has run well on dirt and off tracks in the past, Bad Debt is highly unlikely to run on the main track in the event the 1 1/16-mile stakes for Florida-breds is taken off the turf course.
Rain or Shine, Rule Number Six is slated to participate in the Armed Forces. The Ron Gaffney-trained 4-year-old has won on turf and dirt at Gulfstream Park in the past, having broken his maiden over the main track in 2012 and capturing a starter allowance over the turf course on March 27.
“If he gets the trip, they’ve got him to beat,” said Gaffney, who trains the son of Repent for his wife, Emmy, and Jessica Savin. “I don’t think we’ve seen the best of him yet.”
After showing an affinity for the Gulfstream turf course in three starts, Rule Number Six won an overnight stakes on the main track at Calder. He returns to the turf Thursday after a subpar showing in a dirt stakes last time out.
“Honestly, I don’t know which (surface) he likes better,” said Gaffney, whose colt fired a bullet three-furlong workout at Gulfstream in preparation for the Armed Forces. “When he runs his race, it doesn’t matter which one he’s on.”
Mario Argueta, who was aboard Rule Number Six in his Gulfstream turf score and his dirt stakes win, has the mount for the Armed Forces, which attracted 11 entries, including three main track-only horses.
Alley Oop Oop, a four-time winner in 10 starts on turf, and Balino, a 3-year-old colt who was stakes-placed on turf in his two most recent starts, are expected to receive support from bettors. Should the race be taken off the turf, main track-only entrants Megamove, runner-up in dirt stakes his last two times to post, and Majestic Express, who captured an optional claiming allowance race by nearly 10 lengths last time out, are expected to contend.
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.