After a close call in the Dania Beach Stakes in his last start, Dogwood Stable’s 3-year-old Lime Rickey will be looking for a cleaner trip in Saturday’s $125,000 Hallandale Beach Stakes on the turf at Gulfstream Park.
Trainer Frank Alexander has watched the son of Lemon Drop Kid refine his late-closing kick in seven career starts and will be counting on timing from jockey Julien Leparoux in Saturday’s 1 1/16 miles contest to improve on the runner-up finish behind Jack Spratt in his last race on Jan. 17.
Alexander also noted Lime Rickey had some minor traffic trouble early in the Dania Beach when he steadied on the first turn and waited for a lane in the stretch.
“It wasn’t the best of trips, but that always happens in races like this,” he said. “I think it will depend on the pace. He might be a little closer this time, but I mainly hope he can time it so he has something to run down.”
Lime Rickey has finished behind a steady stream of horses now listed as top 3-year-olds on both dirt and turf. He finished third in his debut behind Graded stakes-winner Bittel Road and missed catching eventual Grade 1 winner Pioneerof the Nile by just a length in August at Saratoga.
Both have since tested the synthetic tracks in Southern California, and Alexander thinks a good run by his horse could put a main track race on the horizon.
“There will always be the temptation to try a good 3-year-old on the dirt,” he said. “I’ve always thought of him as a turf horse and this horse doesn’t train over the dirt all that well. His movement has always said ‘turf horse’ to me, but with another good race, I would think (the owners) would have to try the dirt.”
Alexander also says Lime Rickey keeps his handlers on their toes.
“He’s got a playful streak and a defiant streak,” said Alexander. “He really tests the skills of my guys. He can be in a full gallop and will try and buck the rider, and he doesn’t like the stick. He’s fine with it in the races, but if he acts up around the barn and you go to crack him to get him in line, he’ll get all angry and try to take you on. He’s a handful.”
DeCarlo Close to Return
Jockey Chris DeCarlo is ready to get back in the game next week after a long, on-again, off-again battle to recover from a shoulder injury suffered late in 2007.
The 40-year-old New Jersey native missed the Gulfstream meet last year after breaking his collarbone in a Nov., 2007 spill at Calder Race Course. He returned to action last summer at Monmouth Park, but needed surgery to remove a metal plate and six pins last month, knocking him out for the last three weeks.
“I’ve been working out five days a week along with physical therapy,” said DeCarlo from his New Jersey home. “It’s all cleared up and I’m ready to get back down there and back riding next Saturday (Feb. 21) if I’ve got anything.”
Half-Dozen Gulfstream Jockeys on Road Saturday
Six Gulfstream Park-based jockeys will be on the road Saturday for stakes mounts, including leading rider Kent Desormeaux, defending meet champion Eibar Coa and two-time titlist John R. Velazquez.
Desormeaux is one of five riders scheduled to travel to Tampa Bay Downs and will be aboard Silver Wing Stable’s 3-year-old Free Country in the $225,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3), the morning-line favorite at 3-1 for trainer Ken McPeek.
Other Gulfstream riders with mounts in the Sam Davis are Velazquez on George and Lori Hall’s Atomic Rain, Joe Bravo to ride Ol Memorial Stable and C.E. Glasscock’s A.P. Cardinal, Jose Lezcano aboard Eric Fein and Vic Carlson’s Musket Man and Rene Douglas on Arthur Hancock III’s Sumo.
Coa travels to California for the mount on Win Star Farm’s 6-year-old mare Leah’s Secret in the $300,000 Santa Maria Handicap (G1) at Santa Anita for trainer Todd Pletcher. Coa was aboard the daughter of Tiger Ridge for victories in her last two starts, the Top Flight Handicap (G2) at Aqueduct in late November and the Sunshine Millions Distaff last out at Santa Anita on Jan. 25.
Desormeaux leads the Gulfstream standings with 27 victories, two more than Julien Leparoux, second with 25 wins and Alan Garcia third with 22. Coa is next in fourth with 20, followed by Jose Lezcano, Velazquez and Cornelio Velasquez in a three-way tie for fifth with 19 tallies apiece.
As a reminder, the second jockey-poster signing of the meet will be held at noon in the walking ring Sunday, Feb. 22. All of Gulfstream’s leading riders are expected to be in attendance for the autograph session.
Graded-Stakes Tripleheader Next Weekend at Gulfstream Park
Stamina on turf will be the attributes needed for success in the $150,000 Mac Diarmida Stakes (G2) on Saturday and $100,000 The Very One Stakes (G3) on Sunday at Gulfstream Park, two of three graded stakes on the schedule along with the $100,000 Sabin Stakes (G3) on Friday.
The Mac Diarmida and The Very One are companion events at 1 3/8 miles on turf, the latter for fillies and mares, and will lead to the $150,000 Pan American Stakes (G3) and $150,000 Orchid Stakes (G3) on Mar. 21-22 at 1 ½ miles on turf.
Prominent among the nominations for the Mac Diarmida are Marc Keller’s Grand Couturier, Patricia Genarazio’s Presious Passion and J. Paul Reddam’s Red Rocks, all three Grade 1 winners that are under consideration for the race.
Grand Couturier is a 6-year-old English-bred horse by Grand Lodge with victories in the 2007 Sword Dancer Invitational (G1) at Saratoga and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) last fall at Belmont Park for trainer Bobby Ribaudo. He will be making his first start since finishing 10th in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) behind Conduit at Santa Anita on Oct. 25.
Presious Passion is a 6-year-old gelding by Royal Anthem trained by Mary Hartmann and won the Pan American here last year after a disappointing effort in the Mac Diarmida. He ran a big race last out finishing second by a half-length in the Sunshine Millions Turf at Santa Anita on Jan. 24.
Paul Pompa, Jr.’s 4-year-old filly Backseat Rhythm, Three Chimneys Racing and Harlequin Ranches’s Canadian champion Callwood Dancer and Darley Stable’s English-bred Criticism are among the most accomplished fillies and mares on The Very One nomination roster.
Backstretch Rhythm ranked high in her division the second half of last season, winning the Lake Placid Stakes (G2) at Saratoga and Garden City Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park before closing out her campaign finishing second in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) at Keeneland on Oct. 11 for trainer Pat Reynolds.
Criticism is a 5-year-old mare by Machiavellian trained by Tom Alberetrani and won the Long Island Handicap (G3) going 1 ½ miles at Aqueduct last out on Nov. 1 in her second start in the U.S. after racing in France through 2007.
The Sabin Stakes on Friday is for fillies and mares to be run at one mile on the main track and leading prospects include G. Watts Humphrey Jr.’s undefeated 4-year-old filly One Caroline and Live Oak Plantation’s 5-year-old mare Slewfoundmoney, second to Leah’s Secret in the Top Flight Handicap (G2) late last year at Aqueduct and a troubled third in the First Lady Stakes (G3) here on Jan. 18.