Sligovitz Facing Test in Pan American Saturday

Stronach Stable’s 4-year-old Canadian homebred Sligovitz finished a game fifth in the Gulfstream Park Turf (G1) on Feb. 1 as a 25-1 longshot, beaten only 1½ lengths by Kip Deville, and faces another big challenge Saturday in the $150,000 Pan American Stakes (G3) with Presious Passion and Spice Route the likely favorites in the 1½ miles turf test..

“He ran very well in that race (Gulfstream Turf),” said trainer Brian Lynch from Palm Meadows Thursday morning. “He was inexperienced when he tried a mile-and-a-half last year and veered out,” referring to the colt’s runner-up finish behind Marlang in the Breeders’ Stakes at Woodbine in early August.

As for the possibility of ‘yielding’ or ‘soft’ ground Saturday, Lynch said, “He’s not a big horse and doesn’t get down into the ground when he runs, so I don’t see that as a problem. He came along late last year as he developed, taking baby steps. He beat older horses a couple of times as he ran through his (allowance) conditions.”

A son of Sligo Bay, Sligovitz remained a maiden after five starts when he left Florida last spring for Canada before breaking his maiden at Woodbine in June. The good try in the Breeders’ Stakes marked his stakes debut and he goes into the Pan American with a record of 12-4-2-3 and earnings of nearly $300,000 and a promising future.

Lynch is also looking forward to the next start for an established star in the stable when Stronach Stable’s 4-year-old Canadian homebred filly Ginger Brew runs in the $150,000 Rampart Stakes (G2) going 1 1/8 miles on Sun., Mar. 29.

“She had a pretty rough trip last out in the Tampa Bay race,” said Lynch, who had a big meet at Gulfstream last winter with graded-stakes victories by Stronach star fillies Sugar Swirl and Spring Waltz, the latter winning the Rampart by 3¼ lengths.

Ginger Brew finished fifth as the favorite last out in the Endeavor Stakes (G3) on turf at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 14, beaten only a length for it all with traffic trouble in the stretch. The chestnut daughter of Milwaukee Brew emerged as a star in Canada last year after winning the Calder Oaks in late April before shipping north.

After the Calder race, Ginger Brew won the Woodbine Oaks in early June on Polytrack by six lengths and just missed by a head finishing second going 1¼ miles against male rivals in the Queens Plate two weeks later, Canada’s most famous race. Her career record stands at 10-5-3-1 for earnings of $780,000.

Graded-Stakes Winners Clash in Saturday Allowance

Jon and Sarah Kelly’s Sporting Art and Alien Farm’s Nistle’s Crunch are 4-year-olds that won Graded stakes last year and use a turf allowance Saturday at Gulfstream Park to advance toward bigger objectives this season.

Jockey Alan Garcia rides Sporting Art in the 1 1/16 miles turf test Saturday for trainer Christophe Clement. The son of Doneraile Court won the Palm Beach Stakes (G3) over the Gulfstream course in late March and the Calder Derby (G3) in April, but disappointed in two more graded-stakes efforts at Arlington Park and Colonial Downs before going to the sidelines for the summer and fall.

Sporting Art will need to improve from his 2009 debut when finishing a non-threatening ninth in the Canadian Turf Stakes (G3) here on Feb. 28, although he was beaten only 5½ lengths in his first start since June 21.

Jockey Manoel Cruz rides Nistle’s Crunch for trainer Ken McPeek as he makes his first start since winning the Commonwealth Stakes (G3) on turf at Churchill Downs on Nov. 9. The son of Van Nistelrooy won a nine-furlong main track allowance here last year and finished seventh behind Big Brown in the Florida Derby (G1). He went on to place in Graded stakes at Churchill Downs, Colonial Downs and Saratoga.

Completing the stakes-quality field of nine drawn for the allowance Saturday are Robert Gerczak’s Baltimore Bob, Dogwood Stable’s Prince Rahy, Issac Muhtar’s Fearless Eagle, Frank Calabrese’s It’s Never Too Late, Michael Martin’s Pennington, Martin Cherry’s Pickpapocket and Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Furthest Land.

Leparoux & McPeek Hold Narrow Leads in Gulfstream Standings

Jockey Julien Leperoux and trainer Ken McPeek remain on top the Gulfstream Park standings as the meet heads into Florida Derby (G1) week, but both have rivals in close pursuit with highly competitive races for titles at stake in both categories.

Leparoux is based at Gulfstream for the first time this season as he came in on the momentum of a record-breaking performance leading the fall meet standings at Churchill Downs. Leparoux has ridden 40 winners, two more than John R. Velazquez, Kent Desormeaux and Jose Lezcano in a three-way tie for second.

The top four are followed in the jockey standings by Alan Garcia fifth with 37, Cornelio Velasquez and Eibar Coa tied for sixth with 32 each and Edgar Prado and Elvis Trujillo tied for eighth at 31.

Ken McPeek has led the trainer standings since the early days of the meet, but his lead is down to just one (22-21) over Todd Pletcher, who is bidding for a sixth consecutive Gulfstream championship. Nick Zito ranks third after sending out 18 winners, followed by Wesley Ward and Peter Walder tied for fourth at 13.