Edward Evans’ 3-year-old colt Quality Road schooled in the paddock Wednesday afternoon at Gulfstream Park in preparation for Saturday’s $250,000 Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2).
The big, strapping bay son of Elusive Quality will be looking to make amends for a second-place effort in his most recent start behind returning rival Theregoesjojo, and trainer Jimmy Jerkens thinks the pieces are there to construct a turn-around.
Judging by his size and Wednesday’s good appearance, Quality Road is doing much better now. The colt turned in a ‘bullet’ workout Sunday at Palm Meadows, going five furlongs in 58 2/5. It was one of two ‘bullet’ workouts since his last start in a seven-furlong allowance race Jan. 10.
“He’s been good and he worked awfully good on Sunday,” said Jerkens.
After two starts, Quality Road has run on or near the lead in both races. Jerkens and jockey John Velazquez don’t envision making too many changes to that running style despite the presence of several other quick front-runners.
“Speed is speed and it’s going to be there. Nothing we can do about it,” said Jerkens.
Quality Road’s size is part of the reason he’s logged only two starts to this point.
“He’s at least 17 hands and didn’t get to me until late July,” said Jerkens. “I didn’t even take him to Saratoga with me, but since then there’s been no problems.”
New Connections Keep Old Plan with Frolic’s Dream
A private purchase and a trainer transfer will likely not keep Lael Stable’s Frolic’s Dream from starting in Sunday’s $150,000 Davona Dale Stakes (G2) for 3-year-old fillies at Gulfstream Park.
The daughter of Smoke Glacken moved from Dare to Dream Farm and trainer Marty Wolfson to Roy and Gretchen Jackson and trainer Barclay Tagg two weeks ago. In the time since she joined the new barn, Tagg says there’s no reason to deviate from the previous connections’ plans to tackle Sunday’s one-mile contest despite a slow five-furlong workout this past Tuesday at Gulfstream in 1:03 1/5.
“Her workout wasn’t exactly what I would have wanted, but it worked,” said Tagg while schooling the filly in the paddock Wednesday. “She’s been really nice. She’s been nice to gallop. She does everything nice.”
Frolic’s Dream won the Forward Gal Stakes (G2) here on Jan. 30 after narrowly missing in the Old Hat Stakes (G3) on Jan. 4 by a head in a three-horse photo finish. Tagg’s initial plan with his new charge has been to take it easy on her.
“We’ve been kind of babying her,” said Tagg. “She came to us great and they told us everything about her. We let her play in the sand pit and eat grass every day. She seems happy.”
Distance Cutback for Just as Well in Canadian Turf
After a strong second-place finish behind Kip Deville in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1) on Feb. 1, Jonathan Sheppard’s 6-year-old Just as Well will hope for some pace help in Saturday’s $150,000 Canadian Turf Stakes (G3).
The son of A.P. Indy rallied strongly in the 1 1/8 miles Gulfstream Turf to be beaten only three-quarters of a length, but the shorter one-mile distance of Saturday’s race is somewhat of a concern for owner-trainer Sheppard.
“I would have preferred the race to have been a mile-and-an-eighth to be honest,” said the Hall of Fame horseman. “But I couldn’t convince the racing secretary to change the distance for me, so we will see what happens. Hopefully, there will be enough speed to set up for a closer.”
Sheppard decided to enter Just as Well after his most recent workout, which came with Julien Leparoux in the saddle: The two breezed a half-mile Wednesday at Gulfstream in 49 flat.
“It was just a steady half, but Julien was encouraged by it,” said Sheppard. “To be honest, it was his availability that helped convince me to go in the race. If I had to experiment with a new distance and a new rider, I doubt I would have gone.”
Sheppard admits Just as Well might be a longshot again, but it won’t be much different from his last race when he was 24-1.
“We were taking a bit of a shot in the Grade 1,” said Sheppard. “But I think he ran a superb race. Of course we were getting a pretty fair break in the weights that day, but this time I don’t see any real standouts in this race. It should even out.”
Dutrow on Verge of a Big Weekend: Happy Horses, Help and Trainer
With the latest public workout by IEAH Stable’s multiple Grade 1-winner Kip Deville in the books, and Paul Pompa Jr.’s This Ones for Phil drawn outside in Saturday’s $250,000 Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2), the operative word around trainer Rick Dutrow’s barn was ‘happy.’
Kip Deville, a 6-year-old son of Kipling, won the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1) in his last start and the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) at Monmouth Park. He drilled five furlongs on the turf course between races Wednesday at Gulfstream Park in 1:04.14 in preparation for the $5 million Dubai Duty Free (G1) on Sat., Mar. 28 in the United Arab Emirates on the Dubai World Cup (G1) undercard.
“We weren’t even that worried about a time,” said Dutrow Thursday morning. “Anyone who saw it saw how happy he was. (Jockey) Cornelio (Velasquez) was about as happy as he could be. We’re about as happy as we can be, and I think we have a horse that is about as happy as he can be.”
Clockers timed Kip Deville through fractions of 26.54 and 52.38 and galloped out six furlongs in 1:19.32 while out from the portable rail, which had been set at 36 feet on the course.
Dutrow was also excited to draw post 12 in the gate for the Fountain of Youth because This Ones for Phil, a 3-year-old son of Untuttable and winner of the Sunshine Millions Dash in his last start, will be able to sit outside an expected fast pace.
“I will leave the trip up to Edgar (Prado) and the horse,” said Dutrow. “But we’re about as happy as we can be with that post in that race. It will depend on how they come out of the gate, but that’s the spot we wanted.”
Bonnie Miss Next for Striking Dancer
Stevestan Stable’s 3-year-old filly Striking Dancer was very impressive overcoming a troubled trip to win Wednesday’s eighth race allowance feature on turf at Gulfstream Park in her season debut, and will be pointed next to the $150,000 Bonnie Miss Stakes (G2) on Fri., Mar. 27.
“I really wanted to bring her back in a race on the main track,” said trainer Ken McPeek Thursday morning. “But we couldn’t get a race to go. That’s all right. She’s pretty special and could be an (Kentucky) Oaks filly. She’s never run on dirt, but I’m not really worried that she won’t handle it and the Bonnie Miss fits her schedule.”
Striking Dancer is a chestnut daughter of all-surface sire Smart Strike purchased for $110,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase. She finished third in her debut sprinting on turf at Saratoga and third in her second start sprinting on Polytrack at Keeneland before breaking her maiden by 5 ¾ lengths on turf going 1 1/16 miles at Churchill Downs.
Striking Dancer closed out her campaign finishing a game second in the Caressing Stakes over the Churchill course on Nov. 29, beaten only three-quarters of a length by the winner in a good effort.
Striking Dancer became the 18th winner for McPeek at the meet as he leads the standings by seven over Todd Pletcher, his closest rival second with 11. There’s a three-way tie at 10 among Bill Mott, Nick Zito and Peter Walder.
The talent-packed McPeek stable this season has plenty of action in the weeks ahead, including this weekend with Samotowka Stables and partners’ Theregoesjojo running in the $250,000 Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) here and Alliance Racing’s Fitzaslew shipped to Turfway Park to run in $100,000 John Battaglia Memorial.
In addition to Striking Dancer, McPeek has several other accomplished 3-year-old fillies in the stable with Livin the Dream Racing’s Dream Empress, Michael Paulson’s Our Dahlia and Magdalena Racing’s Best Lass.
Dream Empress and Our Dahlia are being pointed for the $150,000 Herecomesthebride Stakes (G3) here on Sun., Mar. 15 at 1 1/8 miles on turf and Best Lass will go to Turfway Park for the $150,000 Bourbonette Oaks (G3) going one mile on Sat., Mar. 21, according to McPeek.
Dream Empress is a daughter of Bernstein that was a major player in her division last year, most notably finishing second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) at Santa Anita behind Eclipse champion Stardom Bound. Dream Empress will be making her first start since finishing fourth as the favorite in the Golden Rod Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 29.
Our Dahlia is a Kentucky homebred daughter of Belong to Me. She won an allowance race over the turf here on Feb. 4 in her first start on grass after breaking her maiden going a mile on the main track in early January. In two starts in Kentucky last year she finished fourth on Polytrack at Keeneland and third going a mile on the main track at Churchill.
Best Lass is a chestnut daughter of Werblin who won a turf allowance sprint in early February here and finished a game second last out in the OBS Championship for fillies in Ocala going 1 1/16 miles on Polytrack on Feb. 16 with a troubled trip.
Another road trip on the schedule for the McPeek barn will be to Fair Grounds in New Orleans when Silver Wing Stable’s 3-year-old Free Country bids to remain on the Kentucky Derby trail in the $600,000 Louisiana Derby (G2) on Sat., Mar. 14.
A son of Big Country, Free Country was impressive winning a nine-furlong allowance here on Jan. 8, but disappointed last out when fourth as the favorite in the Sam Davis Stakes (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 14 when he did not appear to handle the surface there very well.
McPeek also reports that two veteran stakes winners in the stable will be returning to action at this meet. Raymond Cottrell Sr.’s 5-year-old Birdbirdistheword, a winner of $772,000, will be making his first start since the son of Pure Prize finished third in the 12-furlong Louisville Handicap (G3) at Churchill Downs on May 24.
Alien Farm’s 4-year-old Nistle’s Crunch is coming back after capturing the Commonwealth Turf (G3) on Nov. 9 at Churchill. The son of Van Nistelrooy won a main track allowance here last year prior to finishing seventh behind Big Brown in the Florida Derby (G1) before finding his best stride on turf.