Stately Character Facing Florida Derby Decision

With a stakes win under his belt and an encouraging performance over the track, New Life Stable and Equus Racing Stable’s Stately Character could join the field in the $750,000 Florida Derby (G1) on Sat. Mar. 28 at Gulfstream Park.

The 3-year-old homebred son of Pleasant Tap won the Foolish Pleasure Stakes last September at Calder Race Course before going on the shelf until early this season at Gulfstream.

He’s had mixed success in four starts here, but after finishing second to stakes-bound Al Khali in an allowance race on Mar. 6, trainer and co-owner Gerald Procino must decide if Stately Character is ready for a longshot chance in South Florida’s premier Kentucky Derby (G1) prep race.

“If there’s a colt that could ever put it together in one race, I think he’s capable,” said Procino recently. “We know some of the horses going in there. We know it’s going to be tough.”

Procino says there are excuses for some of Stately Character’s lesser performances including a 10th-place finish in an allowance behind expected top Florida Derby challenger Dunkirk on Feb. 19.

“He’s been a real headache for us,” he said. “That race he threw for us that was so bad, it turns out he bled. We’re just throwing it out. We’re hoping we can get him where we want him. If it looks like a short field, we will take a look. The distance is right for him. We will know (this) week.”

Procino will also be monitoring whether jockey Cornelio Velasquez will head to Dubai for the $6-million World Cup program the same day as the Florida Derby. Velasquez was aboard for the colt’s runner-up finish last out, but if he’s out of the country, Procino was unsure Friday where he would turn for a jockey to ride Stately Character.

Confirmed starters for the 58th edition of the Florida Derby include Susan Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith’s Dunkirk; Edward P. Evans’ Quality Road, John Oxley’s Beethoven and Samotawka and partners’ Threregoesjojo.

Milestone Run by Finallymadeit in Gulfstream Park Handicap

Rolbea Thoroughbred’s ‘Iron Horse’ performer Finallymadeit passed a milestone with his second-place finish in Saturday’s $300,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2) making him the all-time leading money-earner sired by Concerto.

The 5-year-old Florida-bred homebred horse has finished second in the two biggest handicap races at Gulfstream Park this season, battling Albertus Maximus to the wire in the Donn Handicap (G1) on Jan. 31 along with his performance Saturday behind Smooth Air. That race was his fifth start already this season after running 15 times last year and 19 times as a 3-year-old in 2007..

Concerto stands at Ocala Stud Farm in Ocala, Fla., and is ranked second among the state’s top stallions this season, largely thanks to the regular big-race efforts put in by Finallymadeit.

Trained by Javier Negrete, Finallymadeit has earned $871,265 and his $60,000 check Saturday pushed him past Bellamy Road to the leading spot among Concerto’s offspring.

His connections indicated the $100,000 Skip Away Stakes (G3) on Sat., Apr. 4 at Gulfstream would be the likely next target for Finallymadeit.

The Roundhouse & Le Grand Cru Clash in Thursday Allowance Feature

Michael Tabor’s The Roundhouse, twice graded-stakes-placed at Saratoga as a 2-year-old in 2007, and Judson Streicher’s promising Le Grand Cru, set for his third career start, will be the likely favorites in Thursday’s seventh race allowance feature at Gulfstream Park.

Jockey Edgar Prado rides The Roundhouse for trainer Todd Pletcher as he makes his second start at the meet after missing his 3-year-old season last year. The 4-year-old Kentucky homebred is by Fusaichi Pegasus out of graded-stakes-winner Circle of Light. He finished third in the Sanford Stakes (G2) and second in the Saratoga Special (G2) as a juvenile.

In one more start as a 2-year-old, The Roundhouse finished sixth as the favorite in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland. He did not surface in a race again until Feb. 13 here when finishing third behind Formidable in a seven-furlong allowance, a good performance after such a lengthy layoff.

Jockey Javier Castellano gets the call on lightly-raced 4-year-old Le Grand Cru for trainer Allen Jerkens, who sent out Formidable to a solid third-place finish in Saturday’s Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2) in his first start since defeating The Roundhouse in the allowance race.

Le Grand Cru is a son of Dynaformer purchased for $230,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sales. He won his career debut in late March here last year. He didn’t race again until Feb. 27 at this meet when he finished a game second by a length as the favorite in a six-furlong allowance.

Completing the field of seven drawn for Thursday’s feature are Carolyn Hine and partners’ Post Time, Kent Desormeaux; McSchell Racing’s Trekkie, Joseph Berrios; Alan Cook’s Jockey Ridge, Eibar Coa; Zayat Stable’s Book of Z, Julien Leparoux; and Larry Foggle’s a Unique Treasure, Alan Garcia.

Gulfstream Jockey Title Chase Wide-Open

While several of his rivals were out of town Saturday for mounts in major 3-year-old stakes at Fair Grounds and Tampa Bay Downs, Jose Lezcano made the best of the opportunity, winning three races here to move into a tie for second in Gulfstream Park’s jockey standings.

Julien Leparoux leads with 39 victories, one more than Lezcano and Kent Desormeaux, who are tied for second. John R. Velazquez is fourth with 36 tallies. Rounding out the top five in the highly competitive race is Alan Garcia with 35, only four off the lead.

The leader board for trainers also is crowded with Ken McPeek continuing to lead after sending out 22 winners, two more than Todd Pletcher, who bids for a sixth straight Gulfstream meet championship. Nick Zito ranks third with 17 wins, followed by Peter Walder fourth with 13 and Wesley Ward fifth with 12.