Finallymadeit May Finally Be Favorite in Skip Away

At every turn this winter Rolbea Thoroughbred Racing’s Finallymadeit has been sticking his unheralded nose into the picture of Gulfstream Park’s biggest races, but Saturday the 5-year-old homebred son of Concerto will have the focus on him as he tries to speed away with the $100,000 Skip Away Stakes (G3) at 1 3/16 miles.

The race will be Finallymadeit’s sixth of the meet. Like clockwork the chestnut Florida-bred has seemingly shown up every time a big pot was on the table regardless of distance, surface or class.

Along the way Finallymadeit pushed Albertus Maximus to the limit in the Donn Handicap (G1) on Jan. 31, finishing second by a half-length, and nearly escaped from Smooth Air in a good runner-up performance in the Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2) last out on Mar. 14.

“He breezed super the other day and he’s trained really good (at Gulfstream) the whole time he’s been here,” said Elizabeth Turner, assistant to trainer Javier Negrete who oversees Finallymadeit at Gulfstream. The horse breezed a mile at Calder last Saturday (Mar. 28) in 1:44 2/5 before heading back over to barn 7 in Hallandale Beach.

“We’re very optimistic,” said Negrete by phone from Calder. “He worked harder than any of us thought he would on Saturday. He worked very well.”

One of the encouraging developments out of the Gulfstream Park Handicap was Finallymadeit’s ability to give up his customary front-running style and still remain a factor. It’s a new dimension for Negrete’s team and jockey Eduardo Nunez.

“I don’t think he necessarily has to jump out to the lead to be in there,” said Negrete. “He proved it last time out and I don’t think the distance is going to bother him.”

“This distance should be great because he should be able to relax out there,” said Turner. “He shouldn’t be rushed along going that far.”

While six races might be an entire campaign for some horses (he’s already competed for more than $2 million in purses this year), Finallymadeit’s camp might not be finished aiming at big events later this year.

“We’ve had a few discussions on competing in some races up north, but nothing is for sure yet,” said Negrete, who mentioned the Metropolitan Handicap (G1) at Belmont Park on May 25 as one goal and perhaps later a trip to Saratoga for the Whitney Handicap (G1) on Aug. 8.

“They are possibilities, but we’re all going to sit down after this weekend and obviously (owner) Rolando (Rodriguez) will make the final call on what we do. But, first things first, we feel real good about Saturday.”

Finallymadeit got his name by overcoming disabilities as a foal that left him unable to walk. Word out of Ocala, Fla., is that he has a brand new full-sister that is already ahead of the game in that regard.

Turner said the “gorgeous, nice looking” chestnut filly was foaled last week at Eclipse Farm. Finallymadeit is the all-time leading money-earning son of Concerto.

Commentator Drills at Gulfstream for Season Debut

Tracy Farmer’s remarkable 8-year-old gelding Commentator worked a sharp half-mile in 47 4/5 under jockey Joe Bravo and galloped out five furlongs in 1:01 2/5 at about 12:20 before the first race Wednesday afternoon at Gulfstream Park for trainer Nick Zito in preparation for his season debut in the Charles Town Classic to be run at 1 1/8 miles on Apr. 18.

The chestnut son of Distorted Humor is best known as the two-time winner of the Whitney Handicap (G1) at Saratoga (2005 & 2008) and holds the track record at Gulfstream for one mile. His mark of 1:33:71 winning an allowance last year on Jan. 17 by 14 lengths came before a romping 13 ¾-length victory in the Richter Scale Handicap (G2) last Mar. 8.

“That was exactly what we were looking for,” said Zito. “It was very even. Joe (Bravo) said he had a hard time pulling him up after the wire. He (Commentator) got excited about being out there. We wanted to give him a feel like he was going to a race and it got him excited. He’s one of the great horses of all time, certainly for me.”

Commentator will be making his first start since finishing third as the favorite behind Einstein and Delightful Kiss in the Clark Handicap (G2) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 28. His carefully-managed career record stands at 21-13-1-3 for earnings of $1,885,095.

Gulfstream Trainer Title Chase to Continue in Final Weeks

Trainer Ken McPeek has led the Gulfstream standings more days than not since early in the season with Todd Pletcher picking up momentum over the last month, and the two powerful stables appear likely to continue the rivalry during the final three weeks through closing day on Thurs., Apr. 23.

Going into this week’s action, McPeek’s lead is just one (26-25) over Pletcher, who is bidding for a sixth straight Gulfstream championship. Nick Zito ranks third with 21 victories, followed by Wesley Ward fourth at 15 and nine-time Gulfstream titlist Bill Mott and Peter Walder tied for fifth with 14 apiece.

While both McPeek and Pletcher have begun shipping some of their big stables north, both will maintain divisions here through closing. On the other hand, four of the top five riders have shifted their tack to Kentucky and/or New York for the season.

Kent Desormeaux leaves town with the lead after riding 48 winners, followed by John R. Velazquez second with 47, Julien Leparoux and Jose Lezcano tied for third at 45 each and Alan Garcia fifth with 41.

Only Lezcano remains and is expected to finish out the meet, making him a solid favorite to win his first riding Gulfstream title. The 24-year-old native of Panama launched his U.S. career at Gulfstream in 2003 and finished third in the standings here last season behind Eibar Coa and John Velazquez. Lezcano is expected to move on to Monmouth Park after this meet.