George and Lori Hall and their trainer Kelly Breen have a two-pronged plan of attack on the 3-year-old season with their colts West Side Bernie and Atomic Rain. The former will get to fire the first shot Saturday in the $150,000 Holy Bull Stakes (G3), an early two-turn test for Kentucky Derby (G1) prospects at Gulfstream Park.
West Side Bernie, a Kentucky-bred son of Bernstein, will get the chance to avenge a loss to Big Drama in the $750,000 Delta Jackpot (G3) at Delta Downs in Louisiana on Dec. 5. With Big Drama missing this round due to a training setback, Breen was satisfied the pace scenario of the Holy Bull allowed his charge to go it alone.
The goal is to get both horses to the $750,000 Florida Derby (G1) on Mar. 28. Atomic Rain, a son of Smart Strike, flashed speed when second to Free Country in his 3-year-old debut in a strong Gulfstream allowance race on Jan. 8. Breen says he will likely go the Tampa Bay Downs route and evaluate his chances and earnings then.
“‘Bernie’ doesn’t need the earnings,” said Breen, referring to his charge’s $210,000 bankroll of graded earnings used to determine eligibility for the Kentucky Derby. In addition to his runner-up finish in the Delta Jackpot, West Side Bernie won the Kentucky Cup Juvenile (G3) at Turfway Park in September.
“The main thing is seeing how they both run and figure out how we can get them both to the Florida Derby,” said Breen. “‘Bernie’ has a legitimate shot at winning. Both have been second in their last races. I’m tired of that. I want to win. I like to win.”
West Side Bernie will again team with jockey Elvis Trujillo in Saturday’s 1 1/8 miles contest. Trujillo also made the trip to Louisiana for the colt’s last race as well as his maiden breaker last summer at Monmouth Park. Jockey Stewart Elliott was aboard for the win at Turfway and a sixth-place finish behind champion Midshipman in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Santa Anita on Oct. 25.
Idol Maker Must Impress Pletcher with Mental Progress in Holy Bull
James Scatuorchio’s Idol Maker must pass a tough 3-year-old audition for trainer Todd Pletcher Saturday when he steps up to the $150,000 Holy Bull Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park.
The son of Empire Maker has finished fourth in his last two starts, including a talent-laden allowance here on Jan. 8 behind Holy Bull rival Danger to Society.
According to Pletcher, the biggest hindrance to the young colt so far has been immaturity.
“Up to this point he hasn’t quite mentally figured things out,” said Pletcher Tuesday from his Palm Meadows training center office. “He’s been typical in the way he’s trained, but from early-on we could see he was something of a slow learner. I think we’re seeing these Empire Makers get better with experience.”
Idol Maker was a debut winner at Belmont in October before a tiring fourth-place run in the Remsen Stakes (G2) at Aqueduct on Nov. 29.
Pletcher, who swept the Fountain of Youth (G2) and the Florida Derby (G1) with Scat Daddy for Scatuorchio in 2007, has not been discouraged by the last two losses.
“It’s clear he has a lot of talent,” he said. “It has been showing through in the mornings and he continues to improve. The talent is there, it’s just been the mental part that he’s had to overcome. He’s acting like he’s that is starting to come around with his breezes.”
Pletcher will be focused exclusively on the Holy Bull Saturday after learning two weeks ago that Stronach Stables’ 4-year-old Harlem Rocker would miss the headline race Saturday – the $500,000 Donn Handicap (G1).
The spiked fever that disrupted the son of Macho Uno’s training has cleared and Pletcher says the goal will now be the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2) at one mile on Mar. 14.
Wilkes Hoping for Strong Comeback for ‘Capt.’
After a successful juvenile campaign, trainer Ian Wilkes is eager to see how Joseph Rauch and David Zell’s Capt. Candyman Can has developed this winter at Palm Meadows under the live fire of Friday’s $150,000 Hutcheson Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park.
“You always look forward to getting started with 3-year-olds like this,” said Wilkes outside his Palm Meadows barn Tuesday. “When they have success as 2-year-olds there’s always a wait to see how they’re going to come back.”
Capt. Candyman Can, a gelded son of Candy Ride, won the Iroquois Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 1. He followed that with a close third-place finish in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at 1 1/16 miles last out on Nov. 29.
The Hutcheson, at seven furlongs, will be a cutback in distance, but Wilkes has his eyes farther down the road this 3-year-old season.
“He’ll tell us a lot about where he’s at,” he said. “This race is mainly to see where we stand, get started and see where we go from here.”
Wilkes also added he would leave strategy in the sprinting return completely up to jockey Julien Leparoux. The two will break from post 3 in the seven-horse field and Leparoux has been aboard for all four of the gelding’s previous starts.
Wilkes is only two years removed from helping steer the course for Kentucky Derby (G1) champ Street Sense as assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Carl Nafzger. There are almost no physical similarities between the two horses.
“Both are kind of laid back, but other than that, this is a very different situation,” said Wilkes. “This horse has changed a lot since he was gelded (last summer). He’s grown taller. At first he was short and a little fat. He’s filling out now.”
Another star on the horizon for Wilkes is Domino Stud’s Miss Isella, the winner of the Falls City Handicap (G2) on Nov. 28 at Churchill. The 4-year-old daughter of Silver Charm is on target for the $100,000 Sabin Stakes (G3) on Feb. 20.
Post Not Ideal for Break Water Edison in Hutcheson
It’s not what trainer John Kimmel would have wished for, but Eli Gindi’s 3-year-old Kentucky Derby (G1) prospect Break Water Edison is ready to fire from the inside rail post in Friday’s $150,000 Hutcheson Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park.
“It figures that the one hole I didn’t want to get is where we end up,” said Kimmel Wednesday morning at Gulfstream an hour after sending the son of Lemon Drop Kid for a ‘bullet’ three-furlong blowout in 36 1/5. “We’ll just have to deal with it.”
Kimmel was already concerned about bringing the winner of the Nov. 2 Nashua Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct back in a seven-furlong sprint. He has his eyes on longer races down the trail and fears getting overcooked in a tough pace this early in the season.
“From the rail, we’re going to have to make our way forward pretty quickly,” said Kimmel, who will give the leg up to jockey Alan Garcia. “The horses on the outside can sit and see what develops. Our hand is forced somewhat.”
Like some of the trainers in the seven-horse field, the emphasis Friday might not be winning at all costs. Break Water Edison already has more than $109,000 in Graded Stakes earnings, thanks largely to his Nashua win and a runner-up finish in the Saratoga Special (G2) in August.
“We’re pretty happy with him and looking to see how he came out of his 2-year-old campaign,” said Kimmel. “We’re looking to see a solid effort and gauge how well we’re sitting as we start the year.”
Lezcano on Career Victory 1,000 Watch at Gulfstream
Jockey Jose Lezcano got his United States riding career started at Gulfstream Park in 2003 and the 23-year-old Panamanian is now closing in on the 1,000 career victory mark with 994 wins going into Wednesday program while also in the thick of the battle for leading rider currently tied for second in the standings.
Two-time Gulfstream riding champion John R. Velazquez is on top of the leader board after 17 days with 15 victories, one more than Lezcano and Kent Desormeaux with 14 tallies apiece. Alan Garcia ranks fourth with 13 wins, followed by Eibar Coa, Edgar Prado and Cornelio Velasquez next with 12 apiece.
Lezcano has won riding titles at Tampa Bay Downs, Meadowlands and Monmouth Park and had his best season at Gulfstream last year finishing third in the standings behind Coa and Velazquez. Lezcano is named on seven mounts Wednesday afternoon.
Workouts posted on Gulfstream’s ‘dark’ days included a six-furlong drill by Stronach Stables’ On Board Again Monday morning in 1:12 for trainer Bobby Frankel. The 6-year-old will start in Saturday’s $500,000 Donn Handicap (G1).
On Tuesday, Elizabeth Valando’s 3-year-old Hello Broadway – a starter in Friday’s Hutcheson Stakes (G2) – and Charles Fipke’s 4-year-old Tale of Ekati, the Cigar Mile (G1) winner preparing for the Richter Scale (G2) on Feb. 14, both posted ‘bullet’ drills for trainer Barclay Tagg. The former was timed a half-mile in 47 flat, while the latter rolled through five furlongs in 59 flat.
Turtle Bird Stable’s 5-year-old Sir Whimsey, part of the Palm Meadows string for newly crowned Eclipse Award winning trainer Steve Asmussen, breezed a half-mile Monday in 49.85 ahead of his start in the Donn.
Taking in the Wednesday morning training action from the three-eighths pole observation stand at Gulfstream Park was Bill Parcells, the Executive Vice President of Football Operations for the Miami Dolphins, as a guest of Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey.