Pletcher & McPeek Remain Tied With Three Days to Go

Trainers Todd Pletcher and Ken McPeek each had a winner Saturday at Gulfstream Park and remained tied in the standings at 33 victories apiece with three days to go before the meet closes on Thursday, but the numbers now make Pletcher the solid favorite to gain a sixth straight championship here.

Both trainers have runners entered in two races Sunday, but Pletcher has seven horses in five races Wednesday and two more Thursday while McPeek has just one on Wednesday and none Thursday. The top two are well clear of their closest rivals, Nick Zito and Wesley Ward, tied for third with 21 victories each.

Pletcher remained in South Florida over the weekend where he has a large division stabled at Palm Meadows, including Florida Derby (G1) runner-up Dunkirk, who posted a strong drill Saturday morning in preparation for the Kentucky Derby (G1).

Pletcher’s far-flung stable also was in action at other major racing centers Saturday afternoon and evening at Charles Town. Pletcher assistants saddled WinStar Farm’s Advice to post an upset victory in the $300,000 Coolmore Lexington Stakes (G2) at Keeneland; Gulf Coast Farm’s Distorted Passion to finish third in the $150,000 Bed o’ Roses Handicap (G2) at Aqueduct, and Edward P. Evans’ Spritely to victory in the $250,000 Sugar Maple Stakes at Charles Town.

Jose Lezcano rode one more winner on Saturday to extend his insurmountable lead in the rider standings, on his way to his first Gulfstream title. Lezcano has won 66 races with Elvis Trujillo and Kent Desormeaux tied for second, 18 back with 48 each. John Velazquez will finish fourth with 47 and Julien Leparoux fifth at 45.

Thursday: Eight of Nine Races on Turf; Grade 2 Stakes Winner on the Card

The 2009 Gulfstream Park season will close on a decidedly ‘Green’ high note Thursday with eight of the nine races scheduled for the sweeping turf course that has remained in top condition throughout the long season as the venue for such memorable performances as the victories of Kip Deville in the Gulfstream Park Turf (G1) and Presious Passion in the Mac Diarmida Stakes (G3).

Thursday’s feature will be the eighth race, a five-furlong turf sprint with a purse of $52,000 and a field of 11 that includes Brian Prichard’s 6-year-old How’s Your Halo, upset winner of the Richter Scale Stakes (G2) earlier in the meet, and Balkrisna Sukharian’s 6-year-old gelding Castle in the Sky, winner of the $75,000 Turf Sprint at Tampa Bay Downs last out on Mar. 14.