Trainer John Ward reports John Oxley’s leading 3-year-old prospect Beethoven remains on target for the $150,000 Holy Bull Stakes (G3) on Sat., Jan. 31 at Gulfstream Park.

Beethoven worked Saturday and Ward said, “He came out of it good. Everything is quiet this morning and we’re on schedule.”

The son of Sky Mesa breezed five furlongs in 1:01 4/5.

“We should get one more work into him next week and then we should be ready to go.”

Ward confirmed Calvin Borel will be the jockey for the 1 1/8 miles Holy Bull. Beethoven won the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs in his last start on Nov. 29 and carries a 3-for-5 record into his 2009 debut.

Oxley and Ward will also be closely watching the performance of Strategic Decision as that 3-year-old son of Monarchos makes his season debut in a 6 ½-furlong maiden race Wednesday under jockey Edgar Prado.

“We told Edgar there’s less room to maneuver,” said Ward of Strategic Decision, who finished third in his career debut Dec. 13 at Turfway Park. Ward is hopeful the colt will develop fast enough to join Beethoven on the Kentucky Derby (G1) trail.

Sunday, Ward sent his leading older horses Dr. Pleasure and Extreme Supreme for workouts. The former, a 5-year-old son of Thunder Gulch, breezed five furlongs in 1:00 4/5, while Extreme Supreme, a 6-year-old son of Deputy Minister, breezed the same distance in 1:03 1/5.


Levine Longs for Longer Stay at Gulfstream

Trainer Bruce Levine posted a breakout year in 2008, finishing eighth in the country with 188 wins and winning the title at Monmouth Park. It was time to set up a branch office at Gulfstream Park along with his powerful Aqueduct string, but for the 52-year-old native of New York City, the difference in weather means HQ could move here next winter.

“I just got down here this weekend, and to tell the truth, I’m really going to regret having to head back home,” said Levine trackside Sunday morning while in town to saddle M. D. Walts’ 6-year-old mare Beau Dare in the $100,000 Marshua’s River Stakes after his own Buddy’s Humor finished seventh in Saturday’s $100,000 Fort Lauderdale Stakes.

Levine said he came to Gulfstream Park this year mainly with claiming horses while on the lookout for new stock before returning north in the spring. After a weekend in South Florida, the University of Miami graduate joked it won’t be easy to stick to that plan.

“I wanted to come down and I had some owners that wanted to be here and claim some horses,” said Levine. “This weather makes it tough, having to go back home and dodge the snow.”

Beau Dare also appreciates a good vacation according to Levine. The daughter of Military enters the Marshua’s River off a two-month layoff. The last two times she’s returned from a break she won two straight races, including last summer when she won the Candy Éclair and the Klassy Briefcase stakes at Monmouth Park.

“I’m not sure the distance (1 1/16 miles) is her best game,” said Levine. “She’s more of a sprinter, but she’s won around two turns and we’ll see if she can get the trip. She always appreciates a little time off. She’s not the best doer (appetite), so those kind always like a little spacing in their races.”


Forest Command Likely Choice in Wednesday Allowance Feature

John Oxley’s 4-year-old homebred colt Forest Command finished third in the Super Derby (G2) at Louisiana Downs in September and third last out in the Ack Ack Handicap (G3) at Churchill Downs on Oct. 26, and is set to return to competition Wednesday at Gulfstream Park as the probable favorite in the $44,000 allowance feature.

Edgar Prado is named to ride Forest Command in the one-mile test that drew a strong field of 11. The colt is a son of Oxley’s 2001 Florida Derby (G1) and Kentucky Derby (G1) hero Monarchos out of Forest Secrets, a Grade I winner campaigned in the colors of Oxley’s wife Debby. Forest Secrets captured the 2002 Rampart Handicap (G2) here, and she and Monarchos were both trained by Ward.

Prior to the two good efforts in stakes last fall, Forest Command had started three times, losing a head decision when second in his debut at Churchill in the spring before breaking his maiden there on July 4 and winning a Saratoga allowance by six lengths in August.

Trainer Todd Pletcher sends out an entry owned by Zayat Stables in Wednesday’s race with Z Humor and Alaazo and jockey Eibar Coa named on both 4-year-olds. Z Humor is a son of Distorted Humor that won the Delta Jackpot (G3) late in his 2-year-old season, placed in several Graded stakes last year, and makes his first start since a narrow loss finishing third in the Pass the Tab Stakes at Aqueduct on Nov. 16, beaten a head.

Alaazo is a regally-bred colt by A.P. Indy and began last year winning an allowance race here going 1 1/8 miles in his second start after a maiden score at Monmouth Park as a 2-year-old. Fourth behind Big Brown in the Haskell Invitational (G1), Alaazo disappointed when ninth in the Pennsylvania Derby (G2) and eighth last out in a Keeneland allowance on Oct. 12.

Completing the field are Four Roses Thoroughbreds’ Golden Age, Stronach Stable’s Song Shan, Phipps Stable’s Cosmic, B. Wayne Hughes’ Bernulli, Flaxman Holdings’ Izanagi, Herb and Ione Elkins’ Dream Maestro, Shadwell Stable’s Inti and Lewis Family Stable’s Whos Crying Now.


California Road Trip Saturday Pays Off for Velazquez

Two-time Gulfstream champion jockey John Velazquez got off to a fast start this meet, winning seven races in the first five days before a successful foray to California Saturday where he rode Stonerside Stable’s homebred 4-year-old Cowboy Cal to a wire-to-wire victory in the $150,000 San Pasqual Handicap (G2) at Santa Anita for trainer Todd Pletcher.

Velazquez is back at Gulfstream for the Sunday program with his mounts including Darley Stable’s 4-year-old filly Sea Chanter in the $100,000 Marshua’s River Stakes for Pletcher. A son of Giant’s Causeway, Cowboy Cal is targeted next for the $250,000 Strub Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita on Feb. 7.

In Velazquez’ absence Saturday at Gulfstream jockey Jose Lezcano won one race and brought his total to eight wins and the lead in the standings, one more than Velazquez. Kent Desormeaux ranks third with six after two winning rides Saturday for trainer Ken McPeek.

The riding star of the Saturday card at Gulfstream was Elvis Trujillo with three tallies, including a mild upset victory in the $100,000 Fort Lauderdale Stakes aboard Amy Tarrant’s 6-year-old Kiss the Kid.


Smooth Air & Big Drama Work at Calder for Gulfstream Engagements

Mount Joy Stable’s 4-year-old Florida homebred colt Smooth Air worked a strong six furlongs in 1:12 4/5 at Calder Sunday morning for trainer Bennie Stutts, Jr. as he continues preparation for his role as one of the favorites in the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park on Sat., Jan. 24.

Winner of the Hutcheson Stakes (G2) and second to Big Brown in the Florida Derby (G1) here last winter, Smooth Air went on to finish 11th in the Kentucky Derby (G1); win the Ohio Derby (G2) impressively, and finish a game seventh last out in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Santa Anita on Oct. 25, beaten only 5 ¼ lengths for it all by Raven’s Pass.

Harold Queen’s 3-year-old Florida homebred colt Big Drama breezed an easy seven furlongs in 1:32 Sunday morning at Calder for trainer David Fawkes as he continues to work toward his season debut in the $150,000 Holy Bull Stakes (G3) at 1 1/8 miles on Sat., Jan. 31.

The son of Montbrook has won his last five starts after a third-place debut, capturing the $750,000 Delta Jackpot (G3) at Delta Downs in Louisiana on Dec. 5 after sweeping the three ‘open’ divisions of the Florida Stallion Stakes series at Calder.

Notable on the Gulfstream work tab Sunday morning was Paul Pompa Jr.’s 3-year-old Well Positioned, who drilled a ‘bullet’ half-mile in 46 4/5 for trainer Patrick Reynolds, fastest of 27 timed at the distance. The son of Awesome Again made a big impression breaking his maiden at Aqueduct on Nov. 22 by 14 ¼ lengths going one mile at odds of 31-1 after a dull try when sixth in his debut at Belmont in October.

It was a busy morning for the Todd Pletcher stable at Palm Meadows Sunday morning with a number stakes runners on the tab, including Dogwood Stable’s 4-year-old Atoned and Stronach Stable’s 4-year-old Harlem Rocker, each timed six furlongs in 1:14 4/5.

Atoned won the Pegasus Stakes (G3) at Meadowlands last out on Oct. 24 and is being pointed for the Sunshine Millions Classic. The Florida-bred colt by Repent had been a hard-luck horse on the losing end of photo finishes in stakes four times previously, beginning with a neck loss in the Remsen Stakes (G2) at Aqueduct as a 2-year-old and the Tampa Bay Derby (G3) early last year.

Harlem Rocker is on target to make his season debut in the $500,000 Donn Handicap (G1) on Sat., Jan. 31. The roan/gray Canadian homebred colt by Macho Uno finished first by a nose over Tale of Ekati last out in the Cigar Mile (G1) at Aqueduct on Nov. 29, but was disqualified to second.


Mushka Returns to Competition in Brushwood Stable Colors

Trainer Bill Mott sends out Grade 2-winning filly Mushka for her 4-year-old debut in today’s $100,000 Marshua’s River Stakes at Gulfstream Park sporting the famous green and light blue colors of Mrs. Betty Moran’s Brushwood Stable for the first time.

Mott developed the daughter of Empire Maker to win the Demoiselle Stakes (G2) at Aqueduct as a 2-year-old for Zayat Stable, who had purchased her as a yearling for $1.6 million at the Keeneland September sales. After winning a Keeneland turf allowance in early October, she was consigned to the Keeneland November Breeding stock sale and purchased by Brushwood with Mott retained as trainer.