Trainer Juan Reviriego is a colorful character, wearing an ascot and weathered sport coat most mornings around the barn. It’s hard to believe the native of Argentina could quietly slip into anyplace, but his former California string of South American-bred horses has been transplanted to Gulfstream Park in the last month.
Among his small band of runners is the Dama Group’s 5-year-old mare Lady Sprinter, who has been working steadily since getting here in February with hopes of duplicating her Argentine Group 1 stakes success here in the U.S.
Lady Sprinter beat males in the 2007 Maipu Stakes (G1) and the 2008 Cuidad de Buenos Aires (G1), both at Hippodromo Argentino de Palermo, prior to shifting to the U.S. to run in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (G1) at Santa Anita on Oct. 24. She finished ninth there and weakened to seventh and last in the Kalookan Queen Stakes there on Dec. 31 to convince Reviriego the artificial surface there did not suit her.
“We sent her ahead of the others,” he said. “She’s been here, but we decided to bring them all.”
Reviriego contemplated running Lady Sprinter in the Inside Information Stakes (G2) here on Feb. 15, but the seven-furlong distance steered him away.
“To come back off the layoff at seven furlongs is so tough,” Reviriego said. “They can come back, and with good horses, that seventh furlong can be like going uphill.”
Also settling in at Gulfstream now is Fitz Flag, the 9-year-old horse that helped Reviriego gain a foothold in California. The Argentine-bred son of Flag Down has lost his last 13 starts, but has been competing at the highest levels in the long-distance grass races, including a third-place finish in the 2005 renewal San Juan Capistrano (G2) and a fifth-place run in the 2008 edition of the longest graded-stakes race in America (1¾ miles).
Da’ Tara in Wednesday Allowance Feature at Gulfstream
Robert LaPenta’s 4-year-old Da’ Tara, upset winner of the Belmont Stakes (G1) last spring, is nominated to Saturday’s $150,000 Skip Away Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park, but trainer Nick Zito has found a softer spot for the colt’s second start this year in a 1 1/8 miles optional/allowance race Wednesday.
Jockey Paco Lopez rides Da’ Tara in his second start this year after a solid runner-up effort in a seven-furlong allowance on Feb. 28, his first start since late November at Churchill Downs when third in an allowance race.
A son of Tiznow, Da’ Tara still has only two victories to show from 13 career starts, but the second came in the 140th edition of the 1½ miles when he went wire-to-wire to score by 5¼ lengths as Big Brown was being eased in the upper stretch in his bid to sweep the Triple Crown.
Caesar P. Kimmel and partner’s 4-year-old Premium Gold may have the best chance to upset Da’ Tara in the field of seven with jockey Joe Bravo in the saddle. Trained by John Kimmel, the son of Mineshaft makes his first start since mid-December at Aqueduct. The $400,000 Fasig-Tipton February 2-year-old purchase can be a threat on his best days as he showed winning a Saratoga allowance by four lengths on Sept. 1.
Completing the field for Wednesday’s race are Clyde Martin’s Fancy Runner, Clyde Martin; Bea Oxenberg and Laurie Plesa’s B.B. Best, Jose Lezcano; L and D Farm’s Too Good, Eduardo Nunez; Ione and Herb Elkins’ Dream Maestro, Juan Leyva; and Willmott Stable’s Coach Shaw, Javier Castellano.
Desormeaux & Velazquez Tied for Lead in Gulfstream Standings
Jockey Kent Desormeaux rode four winners on Saturday’s 12-race Florida Derby Day program at Gulfstream Park and John Velazquez had two winning mounts, but his second victory came aboard Edward P. Evans’ Quality Road in the $750,000 Florida Derby (G1), leaving the two tied for the lead in the rider standings at 47 apiece.
Following the top two on the leader board is Julien Leparoux third with 45 tallies; Jose Lezcano fourth with 44, Alan Garcia fifth at 41 and Eibar Coa sixth with 40. Only Lezcano and Coa are named on horses next week here as the others have wrapped up their South Florida winter campaigns and will move on to New York and/or Kentucky for the opening of Keeneland on Friday.
The title chase among trainers at the meet may go down to the wire in the weeks remaining here as Ken McPeek leads Todd Pletcher by one (26-25) after Saturday’s action. Both are expected to leave divisions here while shipping others north.
Trainer Nick Zito sent out the winners of the early double Saturday and ranks third with 21 victories, followed by Wesley Ward fourth at 15 and Bill Mott and Peter Walder are tied for fifth with 14 apiece. Pletcher is bidding for a sixth straight Gulfstream meet championship.