HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Grande Shores made it down to $8,000 claiming company last winter, hardly the level of competition trainer Stanley Gold had envisioned for the son of Black Mambo prior to his career debut more than three years ago.
Grande Shores definitely looked like a horse with a stakes future by finishing second in three of his first four starts, including runner-up finishes to Watch Me Go and Decisive Moment, future stakes winners who went on to run in the Kentucky Derby the following year. In his fifth start, although still a maiden, the Florida-bred colt was entered in the Florida Stallion Stakes’ $75,000 Dr. Fager, in which he finished second, just a half-length behind Gourmet Dinner, a multiple-stakes winner.
Soon after, Grande Shores was stricken by a chronic case of colitis that had compromised his racing career until just recently.
“He’s just coming around. I had a lot of problems with him. He was a very, very sick horse,” said Gold, who trains Grande Shores for breeder/owner Jacks or Better Farm. “He should have died.”
Grande Shores recovered sufficiently to return to the races at times, but he wasn’t physically able to realize the potential he had shown early in his career.
“He couldn’t kick it. He went home for six months. He came back and ran big, but he was fighting it again and went back home. He was still fighting it. He was unhealthy,” Gold said. “He was fighting colitis. Sometimes it takes a long time to fight it. This case has taken years, but if you look at him now, he’s just the picture of health.”
Grande Shores, no longer “skin and bones,” began his 5-year-old season with a pair of strong victories under an $8,000 claiming tag at Tampa Bay Downs before stepping up in company.
“Ever so slowly, ever so slowly, it just started to go away. We did everything we could to stop it, and then he turned the corner at Tampa this winter,” Gold said. “He’s continued to get better.”
Since finishing third behind Black Diamond Cat, a prominent candidate for the Montbrook, in the Ponche Handicap in June, Grande Shores has come back to impressively win a starter optional claiming race and an optional claiming allowance. A stablemate of Jackson Bend, who finished a close second in the recent Grade 1 Forego at Saratoga, Grande Shores is working forwardly for his return to stakes competition.
“When Jackson was getting ready, he couldn’t catch this horse. Jackson was breezing with this horse,” said Gold, who noted that Grande Shores’ early foot gave him an advantage over Jackson Bend, who needs a bit more time to find his best stride. “This horse has had a string of outstanding works.”
Grande Shores, who had been entered for a six-furlong stakes that didn’t fill last weekend, will be making only his second start at the mile distance.
“I would have preferred that the six-furlong stake had filled, but he’s worked great for this race,” said Gold, whose Montbrook entrant has been rated fourth at 8-1 in the morning line.
Grande Shores’ most imposing rivals in the Montbrook figure to be Sr. Quisqueyano, the 5-2 morning-line favorite, and Black Diamond Cat, rated second at 3-1. The two recent stakes winners at Gulfstream, though, may not be racing at their ideal distances.
Sr. Quisqueyano, a game winner of the $100,000 Eight Miles East Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on Aug. 24, will be cutting back to a one-turn mile. Although trainer Luis Olivares expressed a wish that Saturday’s race would be 1 1/16 miles or 1 1/8 miles, his 3-year-old colt has performed well at the one-mile distance this year, most notably while finishing a distant second to Itsmyluckyday in the Gulfstream Park Derby on Jan. 1.
“He tries all the time,” Olivares said. “He likes the competition.”
Black Diamond Cat, the winner of the seven-furlong $100,000 Housebuster Stakes at Gulfstream on Aug. 3, had been entered for the six-furlong stake that didn’t fill. The 6-year-old gelding has one second-place finish in only two starts at the mile distance, but he was drawing off while winning the Housebuster by 2 ¼ lengths at seven furlongs.
Megamove, a disappointing seventh in the Eight Miles East after finishing no worse than second in his previous eight starts, will be back at his ideal distance for the Montbrook.
“I hope he runs better than he did last time,” said trainer Ron Spatz, whose 4-year-old was coming off a three-month layoff for the Eight Miles East. “He did not run his race. He didn’t seem himself. Going to the paddock he was quiet.”
Timeless Indy, a winner of two of his last three starts at Monmouth for trainer Eddie Plesa Jr., and Majestic Express, a dominant allowance winner at a mile last time out, are both set to step into stakes company.
Owned by Besilu Stables, Timeless Indy has showed vast improvement since returning to dirt racing three starts back, when the 3-year-old gelded son of A.P. Indy broke his maiden by more than eight lengths. He followed up with a runner-up finish before being awarded the victory next time out on July 28 after being impeded in the stretch.
“The horse is training super,” said Frankie Perez, longtime assistant to Plesa who has been overseeing the daily training at Gulfstream this summer. “We gave him an easy breeze and he did very well. He’s been training 100 percent and has handled the weather really well.”
Majestic Express, trained by Kirk Ziadie for owner Frank Calabrese, is three for three at Gulfstream.
Imperial Czar and Joshua’s Comprise round out the field.