Confident ‘Vixen’ Ready to Tackle South Beach

Trainer Joe Orseno has been patiently waiting for Reata Thoroughbred Racing Farm’s Reata’s Vixen to come around. Apparently the 4-year-old filly simply needed a confidence boost and now she’s poised for a strong effort in the $50,000 South Beach Stakes at 7½ furlongs on turf Saturday at Gulfstream Park.

The daughter of Sligo Bay won a $35,000 claiming race on turf on Feb. 26 to snap a 10-race losing streak. She built off that effort to be third in an allowance race on Mar. 22, and Orseno says it is all part of a plan.

“She’d been sort of stuck, hanging, saddle-slipping, not finishing,” said Orseno Sunday from his Gulfstream barn. “One of the reasons we went in the claiming race was to give her a confidence boost. She could have won her last race too, but she was stopped, blocked and never got a chance. We knew we were pointing for this stakes so we’re pretty sure she got enough out of it.”

Reata’s Vixen worked Saturday at Gulfstream, breezing three furlongs in 38 2/5.

“She’s doing really good right now,” said Orseno. “Yesterday was just a little maintenance work. We’re running back a little quick compared to some of her other races, but we figure she’s had just enough time to get over her last race and she’s had a pretty easy campaign this year.”

Orseno is also counting on Reata’s Vixen maturing like a sound investment. He convinced owner Fort Worth, Texas, restaurant owner Al Micallef to spend $100,000 at the 2007 Adena Springs 2-year-old sales largely because he had intimate knowledge of the filly’s family.

“I trained her mom, Top of the League, for the Stronachs and I remember what a really good runner she was,” said Orseno. “She was always a nice horse. I think the Sligo Bays are all going to get better with age and I think this filly has always had something holding her back. She’s going in the right direction now and I think she’s going to turn out to be pretty nice.”


Lezcano Drawing Clear; McPeek & Pletcher Duel Continues

Jockey Jose Lezcano is the ‘last man standing’ among the top five riders in the Gulfstream Park standings as he remains based here for the closing weeks of the session, and all of his closest rivals on the leader board have moved on to Keeneland and/or Aqueduct.

Lezcano rode one winner Saturday to bring his total to 53, five more than Kent Desormeaux, who had a good day Saturday at Keeneland riding four winners. Rounding out the top five are John R. Velazquez third with 47 followed by Julien Leparoux fourth with 45 and Alan Garcia fifth at 41.

Lezcano finished third in the standings here last year behind Eibar Coa and John Velazquez. A 24-year-old native of Panama, Lezcano began his U.S. career riding at Gulfstream in 2003 and led the standings last summer at Monmouth Park where he will be headed after Gulfstream closes on Apr. 23.

Ken McPeek continues atop the trainers’ standings with 29 victories, but defending meet champion Todd Pletcher is only two back at 27 after winning the last race Saturday. Pletcher is bidding for a sixth straight Gulfstream title.

Nick Zito ranks third with 21 wins, followed by Wesley Ward fourth at 17 and nine-time Gulfstream champion Bill Mott and Peter Walder tied for fifth with 16 apiece. McPeek and Pletcher have left divisions behind to compete during the final weeks of the meet with the title chase likely to go into the final days before being decided.