Csaba has had his opportunities to excel on turf, but the now-4-year-old has made it clear that he’d rather get his feet dirty while fulfilling his destiny on main tracks.
Now a multiple-stakes winner on dirt, Csaba is set for a return to action in Saturday’s $100,000 Quality Road Stakes at Gulfstream Park, where he showed a strong affinity for the main track last winter.
“This is probably the best offspring of Kitten’s Joy on the dirt,” said Gleaves, who trains Csaba for Bruce Hollander and Cary Shapoff. “I don’t know why, because he’s out of a grass mare and his full sister is a grass horse. He has a different build. Obviously, it has to do with conformation. He has run well on grass, but he seems to be more comfortable or more effective on dirt.”
Following his promising debut on turf in 2011, Csaba gave a huge clue about his future when he captured back-to-back off-the-turf races over sloppy tracks by open lengths. He certainly didn’t disgrace himself in subsequent races on turf, over which he finished third behind Howe Great and Dullahan in the Grade 3 Palm Beach Stakes early last year, but it became obvious to Gleaves that his colt truly came to life when his races were forced to the main track.
Csaba, who has gone on to win six stakes on dirt and earn more than $450,000, notched back-to-back stakes triumphs at Gulfstream last winter, capturing the 1 1/16-mile Harlan’s Holiday and the one-mile Hal’s Hope (G3). He finished fifth while stepping up to Grade 1 company in the 1 1/8-mile Donn Handicap in his Gulfstream finale, before rebounding with another stakes win. After shipping north, Csaba finished third in the Salvator Mile (G3) at Monmouth prior to a seventh-place finish in the Whitney (G1) and fifth in an overnight stakes at Saratoga.
Gleaves understood that Csaba was in pretty steep company in the Whitney, which only became an option when an overnight stakes didn’t fill, but he was disappointed with Csaba’s showing in his next start in the Alydar Stakes.
“I don’t know what happened that day. I’m thinking the track wasn’t conducive to him, because after the race he came back fine and scoped clean,” Gleaves said. “And he gives every indication now that he’s back on top of his game.”
Csaba returned to Gulfstream last month and has had four breezes, including two bullet workouts, in preparation for the 1 1/16-mile Quality Road.
“He loves this racetrack as we found out last year. That won’t be an issue. He gives every indication that he's back on top of his game. It’s a competitive field, but I look for him to run big,” Gleaves said. “That seems to be his ideal trip – a mile and a sixteenth. We turned him back to a mile for the Hal’s Hope and he won it, but he wasn’t as comfortable going the one-turn mile. He’s won several races at a mile and an eighth, but against top company, it might be a stretch. I’d say a mile and a sixteenth is his ideal trip.”
Csaba, who’ll be ridden by Manoel Cruz, has been rated second in the morning-line at 9-5 in the field of seven horses.
Where’s Sterling, a multiple-stakes winner trained by Kirk Ziadie for owner Frank Calabrese, has been installed as the 8-5 morning-line favorite for the Quality Road. First or second in 13 of 18 lifetime races, the 6-year-old son of Northern Afleet has two allowance wins from three starts this year and finished a close second behind Sr. Quisqueyano in the $100,000 Eight Miles East Stakes at Gulfstream two starts back. Jeffrey Sanchez, who rode Where’s Sterling to victory last time out, has the return mount.
Sr. Quisqueyano, rated third at 4-1 for the Quality Road, set all the pace and held gamely to capture the 1 1/16-mile Eight Miles East by a neck over late-charging Where’s Sterling. The 3-year-old son of Exclusive Quality, who faded to fourth after disputing a contested early pace while cutting back to a one-turn mile in the Montbrook Stakes last time out, is expected to appreciate the return to 1 1/16 miles. Carlos Olivero has been named to ride the Florida-bred colt.
Isutalkintome, who won an option claiming starter allowance after finishing a distant third behind Sr. Quisqueyano and Where’s Sterling in the Eight Miles East, has been rated fourth at 6-1. No Lift Shift, Colizeo and Joshua’s Comprise round out the field.