The stakes aren’t quite as high and there isn’t a Grade 1 race on the line, but six days after watching Kip Deville bounce back from a dull race to win the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1) on Sunday, trainer Rick Dutrow will send Vincent Scuderi’s 4-year-old Formal King into the $75,000 Tallahassee Stakes Saturday off a similar dull race.
The gelded son of Formal Dinner will take on a dozen other Florida-breds in the one-mile turf contest while trying to put the memories of his 73-length loss in an optional-allowance race on the inner dirt track at Aqueduct on Jan. 2 behind him.
“It was the inner track. Period,” said Dutrow Thursday morning from his Gulfstream Park office. “He was training so well before that race or else I never would have put him in there. Most grass horses don’t like running up there and he just hated it.”
Formal King had won in wire-to-wire fashion on Aqueduct’s main dirt track in November, but of the gelding’s six career wins, four have come on the turf. One of those wins includes the first of his career in a $25,000 maiden claimer over the Gulfstream turf course last April. He was claimed by Dutrow one start later for $35,000 at Belmont Park.
Despite the smaller stakes, Dutrow is exhibiting similar confidence to the run-up to Kip Deville’s race last weekend.
“He’s training like he will run a big race,” he said. “The mile is probably his game and the grass is definitely his game. I’m very happy and confident he’s going to bounce back in that race.”
Formal King breezed a half-mile Wednesday on the main track in 50 flat.
Any Limit on Target for Hurricane Bertie
Joseph V. Shields, Jr’s star sprinting mare Any Limit came out of a Wednesday maintenance workout at Gulfstream Park in good order and continues on track for the $125,000 Hurricane Bertie Stakes (G2) to be run at 6 ½ furlongs on Feb. 15, a race she won in 2007.
The 6-year-old daughter of Limit Out finished second in her attempt to win her second title in the First Lady (G2) on Jan. 18 behind Game Face. With four graded stakes wins to her credit, Any Limit has earned admiration from her Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens.
“She’s an honest mare who always gives her best,” said Jerkens Thursday, one day following her easy five-furlong breeze in 1:05 at Gulfstream. “She does the best she can every time. It’s up to us to do the best we can for her every time.”
Jerkens added that the slow workout was by design and said he was pleased with her training since the First Lady.
Any Limit was a division leader in 2007 with wins in both the Hurricane Bertie and the First Lady and was on the road to the inaugural Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint that fall at Monmouth Park when an ankle injury knocked her off course. She went 11 months between races, but returned to win two graded stakes in New York in 2008.
The homebred has two wins and two seconds in her six career starts at Gulfstream.
Zerpa Looks Ahead to Better for Salo Jak
Mi Jak Racing Stable’s 3-year-old Salo Jak finished an even fourth last out in the $150,000 Hutcheson Stakes (G2) last Friday at Gulfstream Park, beaten six lengths in the seven-furlong test by Capt. Candyman Can, but trainer Gilberto Zerpa hopes for better when he comes back in the $250,000 Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) going one mile on Sat., Feb. 28.
“He got a bad break (last of six) and still finished well,” said Zerpa Thursday morning from his Calder headquarters. “I think you’ll see better from him next time (FOY) going a mile.” Salo Jac was last of six after a half-mile, 13 lengths behind the leaders before making up ground in the stretch.
A Florida-bred chestnut colt by Graeme Hall, Salo Jak was a $17,000 Fasig-Tipton October weanling purchase and won three straight at Calder prior to the Hutcheson, including the $150,000 Jack Price Juvenile in November, after a second-place debut in early September.
Zerpa is a 33-year-old native of Caracas, Venezuela where he trained by 13 years, winning 300 races before setting up operations at Calder last June. Zerpa will send out Los Aquacates and Off The Hook LLC’s 3-year-old filly Legally Blanca in the second race Saturday as the roan/gray daughter of Northern Afleet makes her career debut in the five-furlong test.
‘J.R.’ to Santa Anita Saturday
A relatively quiet weekend on the Gulfstream Park stakes calendar will have several of the leading riders on the road for stakes engagements Saturday, including John R. Velazquez, who is named on contenders in four Graded stakes that afternoon at Santa Anita.
Velazquez is named to ride Robert and Janice McNair’s 4-year-old Cowboy Cal in the $250,000 Strub Stakes (G2), James Scatuorchio and John Iracane’s 3-year-old Bittel Road in the $200,000 Robert Lewis Stakes (G2) and Starlight Stable and partners’ 4-year-old Monba in the $100,000 Thunder Road Handicap (G3), all three for trainer Todd Pletcher.
Velazquez rides Hal and Patti Earnhardt’s 3-year-old filly Toro Bonito in the $300,000 Las Virgenes Stakes (G1) for trainer Bob Baffert.
Jockeys Edgar Prado and Julien Leparoux will travel to New Orleans Saturday for mounts on 3-year-olds in the $200,000 Risen Star Stakes (G3). Prado rides Virginia Tarra Trust’s Giant Oak for trainer Chris Block and Leparoux will be atop Tim Brown and Phil Gahm’s Au Moon for trainer David Carroll.
Also bound for the Risen Star from South Florida is My Meadowview Farm’s 3-year-old Nowhere to Hide, who left by van Wednesday morning. Trained by Nick Zito, the son of Vindication was entered in the $150,000 Holy Bull Stakes (G3) here last Saturday, but scratched in favor of the Risen Star.