Pletcher-trained Filly Entered in Saturday’s Third Race
Eldaafer Thriving at Gulfstream Park
Jockey Antioco Murgia Seeks American Way

Pletcher-trained Filly Entered in Saturday’s Third Race

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Trainer Todd Pletcher, the 10-time defending titlist for Gulfstream’s Champion’s Meet, has entered his first horse of the inaugural summer meeting.

Island Love Song, who was entered Sunday for next Saturday’s third race, is among 41 Pletcher-trained horses that arrived at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream’s satellite training facility in Boynton Beach, last weekend. Pletcher’s longtime assistant Anthony Sciametta will oversee the stable’s daily training.

Owned by Stonestreet Stables, Island Love Song is part of a three-horse entry with Cam Gambolati-trained Ms. Pickford and Marty Wolfson-trained Mon Arch Lass in the $35,000 maiden race for fillies and mares. Island Love Song finished a troubled second in her career debut at Monmouth Park on July 5.

Pletcher ran away with training title No. 10 during the winter by saddling 52 winners, well ahead of Bill Mott and Michael Maker, who tied for second with 27 wins. His horses earned more than $3.1 million.

Eldaafer Thriving at Gulfstream Park

In his last start, Eldaafer flashed the winning form that made him a Breeders’ Cup champion while capturing the Grade 3 Greenwood Cup at Parx Racing on Sept. 2. The 2010 Breeders’ Cup Marathon winner made the lead at the top of the stretch and prevailed in a prolonged duel by a nose in the $200,000 1 ½-mile Greenwood Cup.

“Other than his Breeders’ Cup, I think that was his best race,” said trainer Diane Alvarado, who trains the 8-year-old gelding at Gulfstream Park. “Believe me, I was crying in the winner’s circle. I was so proud of him.”

Eldaafer, who scored his Marathon victory at Churchill Downs, has run back in the 1 ¾-mile Breeders’ Cup event at Churchill in 2011 (sixth) and Santa Anita last year (seventh). However, Alvarado is currently inclined to bypass the Marathon at Santa Anita this year and concentrate on the $350,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup (G2) on Nov. 30.

“Everybody’s pushing for the Breeders’ Cup, but the owners said if I wanted to go to Hawthorne to just wait for Hawthorne,” said Alvarado. “They moved the race to Nov. 30 this year so a lot of the horses will go to the Breeders’ Cup. We’ll miss them, and it will be good for us. He ran really well in the Gold Cup last year.”

Eldaafer, who finished third at Hawthorne last year and who prepped for the Greenwood Cup with a second-place finish in the $50,000 Stymie Stakes at Delaware Park on July 11, has seemed to thrive while training at Gulfstream and shipping north.

“He’s been shipping for how many years now? He’s a pro. He loves it. He ships good. He doesn’t miss an oat. I think he knows it’s time to do his job,” Alvarado said. “He was training like a rock star (for the Greenwood Cup). He ran a big number at Delaware. I got him back down here and let him come back into himself. When he’s right, he’s good. When he wants to run, he runs.”

Jockey Antioco Murgia Seeks American Way

Antioco Murgia’s world travels are making a stop at Gulfstream Park, where the 25-year-old jockey will have two mounts on Saturday’s card.

Born in Sardinia, Murgia rode his first race in England at Newmarket in 2008 and has been splitting his time between England and Dubai while working for Godolphin.

“It’s been my dream to ride in the U.S. I always watched the races on TV all of the time and followed all of the big jockeys,” Murgia said. “I like the American way of racing.”

Murgia has ridden winners for Godolphin during the Dubai Carnival and regards Godolphin’s Farhh as the best horse he’s ridden. He guided Farhh to victory in the Thirsk Cup at Thirsk Racecourse in England last year. Farhh went on to finish second behind the great Frankel twice.

Murgia is slated to ride Cuentos in the third race and Giddy Up Amigo in the Eighth.