With a five-win day last year Joe Orseno earned the distinction of being the leading trainer in the month of April at Gulfstream Park. This year the focus will be slightly different and he hopes Garland Williamson’s Cool Gator can start the month in a big way in the $100,000 Skip Away Stakes (G3) Saturday.
“Instead of winning five in one day, we’re going to try and win as many stakes as we can,” said Orseno as he mapped out plans for two or three of his best horses.
“He’s doing good and going in the right direction,” said Orseno. “That’s his distance for sure. It just took him all winter to come around, but he seems to be on his way to becoming the horse we had hoped he would be. It’s just taken a race or two to put it together.”
Cool Gator failed to fire in his seasonal debut going a mile on the main track here Jan. 10. He then loped toward the back of a nine-furlong turf race on Jan. 28 before perking up somewhat when third behind Sudden War going 1 ½ miles in another turf allowance Mar. 6.
Orseno also entered Cool Gator in a long distance turf race on Saturday’s card that failed to draw enough competitors, but the trainer isn’t looking at the stakes attempt as a ‘Plan B.’
“The main thing is giving him the chance at a distance like this,” he said. “I am not against running him back on the dirt.”
While a steady stream of horse vans have turned the back corner of the Gulfstream barn area into a quieter place, Orseno’s barn is still stocked and bustling, including two fillies with stakes on their agenda.
Reata Thoroughbred Racing Farm’s 4-year-old filly Reata’s Vixen is pointing to the $50,000 South Beach Stakes on Sat., Apr. 11 at 7 ½ furlongs on the turf. Capital Hill Thoroughbreds and Team Five Star’s 3-year-old filly Miss Blakely will take to the turf on Sat. Apr. 18 in the $50,000 Boynton Beach Stakes in the final stakes of the season.
Orseno also reported long-distance specialist Phil the Power, owned by John Perrotta, will get some time off after wrenching an ankle when sixth in the Challenger Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on Mar. 7.
“I had been putting him in ‘main track only’ every time, but he never got a chance,” said Orseno. “I was hoping to catch a break in the Pan Am (Pan American Stakes (G3) on Mar.21), but I had to get him a race and we sent him to Tampa. Wouldn’t you know it, the Pan Am comes off the turf.”
Pletcher & McPeek Tied: Lezcano Moves on Lead
Trainer Todd Pletcher sent out Peachtree Stable’s 4-year-old Polo Argentina to win the last race Wednesday at Gulfstream Park to draw into a tie for the lead in the standings with Ken McPeek at 26 victories apiece as he bids for a sixth straight meet championship here.
Following the top two in the trainers standings are Nick Zito third with 21 wins, Wesley Ward fourth with 16 after sending out the winner of the first race for 2-year-olds this season on Wednesday’s program and nine-time Gulfstream titlist Bill Mott and Peter Walder remain in a tie for fifth with 14 tallies each.
Jockey Jose Lezcano won two races on Wednesday’s card to move to within one of the lead in the rider standings and a heavy favorite to take the title as each of the other top five jockeys in the standings currently have moved on to Kentucky and/or New York. Kent Desormeaux leads with 48 victories, one more than Lezcano and John R. Velazquez tied for second at 47.
Gulfstream-Raced 3-Year-Olds Spreading Out
The climax of the Gulfstream Park season came last Saturday with Edward P. Evans’ Quality Road defeating Susan Magnier and partners’ Dunkirk in the $750,000 Florida Derby (G1) and the winner is now widely-regarded as the favorite for the Kentucky Derby (G1) at Churchill Downs on Sat., May 2.
Four graded-stakes races for 3-year-olds, three likely to produce contenders for the Kentucky Derby, will be run this Saturday across the country and each will have prospects that raced at Gulfstream earlier this season, including five of the eight entered in the $750,000 Wood Memorial (G1) at Aqueduct.
Entered in the Wood are Sequoia Racing’s Imperial Council (Shug McGaughey), Robert LaPenta’s Just a Coincidence (Nick Zito), Dogwood Stable’s Lime Rickey (Frank Alexander) and Lori and George Hall’s West Side Bernie and Atomic Rain (Kelly Breen).
Three other sophomores with Gulfstream experience will line-up for the $500,000 Illinois Derby (G2) at Hawthorne in Chicago – WinStar Stable’s Al Khali (Todd Pletcher), My Meadowview Stable’s Nowhere to Hide (Zito) and Silver Wing Stable and partners’ Free Country (Ken McPeek).
Entered in the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby (G1) and raced at Gulfstream earlier this year are Starlight Stable’s Take the Points (Pletcher) and Zayat Stable’s Z Day (formerly Rick Dutrow – transferred to Mike Mitchell).
Three others with Gulfstream races this year in their past performances are entered in the $150,000 Bay Shore Stakes (G3) to be run at seven furlongs on the Wood Memorial undercard at Aqueduct – Joseph Rauch and David Zell’s Capt. Candyman Can (Ian Wilkes), Live Oak Plantation’s Rocketing Return (Zito) and Shadwell Stable’s Taqarub (Kiaran McLaughlin).