Pletcher & Lezcano Seal 2009 Gulfstream Meet Titles

Trainer Todd Pletcher will win a sixth straight Gulfstream Park meet championship after sending out one winner on Sunday to take the lead by one in the standings over Ken McPeek with two days to go before closing on Thursday.

McPeek led the standings for much of the season until recent weeks while Pletcher’s powerful stable picked up momentum. The number of starters were decidedly in Pletcher’s favor in the final days and he went into Wednesday’s card leading 34-33.

Pletcher had 10 horses entered in seven races the last two programs. The race between he and McPeek officially ended after McPeek scratched 3-year-old filly Chapel Affair out of the ninth race Wednesday. Wesley Ward moved into third with a winner Sunday to bring his total to 22, followed by Nick Zito fourth at 21 and Peter Walder fifth with 19.

While the trainers’ title chase went into the last week of the session, jockey Jose Lezcano has had the riding title wrapped up virtually since his top rivals left for the opening of Keeneland nearly three weeks ago. Lezcano has ridden 67 winners with Elvis Trujillo second at 52. Trujillo had four tallies on Sunday, and both will move on to ride at Monmouth Park this summer.

Finishing in the next three positions will be Kent Desormeaux third with 48, John R. Velazquez fourth with 47 and Julien Leparoux fifth at 45. With three days before Keeneland closes on Friday, Leparoux has run away to the lead in the standings there with 24 wins, 10 more than Desormeaux, second with 14, and Velazquez third with 10.

Gulfstream Rivals Smooth Air & Finallymadeit in Stakes Saturday

Mount Joy Stable’s 4-year-old Smooth Air and Rolbea Thoroughbred Racing’s 5-year-old Finallymadeit put on a good show to finish one-two in the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2) on Mar. 14, and the two Florida homebreds are set to run in stakes race this Saturday.

Smooth Air rallied in the stretch to run down Finallymadeit by 1¼ lengths in the one-mile Gulfstream Park Handicap. The son of Smooth Jazz was flown to Texas Tuesday where he will run in Saturday’s $300,000 Texas Mile (G3) at Lone Star Park for trainer Bennie Stutts Jr.

It will be the first start since the Gulfstream race for Smooth Air, but Finallymadeit came back to win the $100,000 Skip Away Handicap (G3) going 1 3/16 miles on Apr. 4 by 8½ lengths and owner-breeder Rolando Rodriguez and trainer Javier Negrete indicated after that race they also were also likely bound for the Texas Mile next.

However, a change of plans has Finallymadeit entered in two stakes Saturday at Calder Race Course – the $100,000 Miami Mile (G3) on turf and the $55,000 Sumter overnight stakes at one mile and 70 yards on the main track – but he will only run in the Miami Mile if wet conditions forced the race off turf.

The connections of both horses have indicated that their next major target will be the $600,000 Metropolitan Handicap (G1) at Belmont Park on Memorial Day, May 25 if all goes well in their races this weekend.