Lael Stable’s Nicanor, the 3-year-old full-brother to 2006 Kentucky Derby (G1) and Florida Derby (G1) winner Barbaro, is doing “terrific” and has trainer Michael Matz hoping he will be able to make his career debut on Donn Handicap (G1) weekend, Jan. 30-Feb. 1.

The Kentucky homebred son of Dynaformer breezed a half-mile in company with fellow Matz-trainee Hennigan in 50 2/5. The two finished together with Nicanor getting the wider, outside trip around the sweeping Palm Meadows turn under exercise rider and assistant trainer Peter Brette. It was a breeze designed to gauge how ready the colt is for his debut. By all accounts, it’s a matter of scheduling now.

Matz says the colt’s intelligence has accelerated as his workouts have accelerated.

“He has really matured a lot just in the last month,” said Matz, shown to the left at Palm Meadows, keeping an eye out for Nicanor on a chilly Saturday morning.

With workouts on both dirt and turf, Matz indicated Nicanor is prepared to debut at various distances and has stayed locked on the timeframe drawn up by Matz since going back into serious training last month.

A start on the weekend of Jan. 31 would not only fit the schedule, it would mean Nicanor could launch his career around the same time 2007 Horse of the Year Curlin did at Gulfstream. It also coincides with the Holy Bull Stakes (G3), which Barbaro won in 2006 for his first victory on dirt after winning his first three on turf.

Barbaro went on to win the Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby before breaking his ankle in the Preakness Stakes (G1). The resulting attempts to save the colt’s life captivated the world. Barbaro eventually succumbed to laminitis eight months later.

“We’re not sure if it will be seven-eighths or a mile,” said Matz of the distance of Nicanor’s would-be debut. “If we want to start on the turf, we can do that because he works equally as well there. We have options. We just need the race to come up.”



Laragh Back to Work With Kentucky Oaks Her Goal



IEAH Stables and partners’ 3-year-old filly Laragh posted her first workout Friday morning at Palm Meadows since winning the Hollywood Starlet Stakes (G1) on Dec. 13 at Hollywood Park in California, and will be pointed toward a return to the races in March.

Trainer John Terranova sent the Kentucky-bred daughter of Tapit three furlongs in 38.90 in an “easy” move designed as the first steps of a gradual build up to an undetermined first race of the year.

“She came out of the Starlet in great shape and she’s just getting started,” said Terranova. “We have no solid plan in the works for her as to where we kick off her campaign. We do have big plans, but we just don’t have a starting point.”

In addition to her victory in on Hollywood Park’s ‘Cushion Track’ surface, Laragh finished third in the inaugural Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Santa Anita and won the Jessamine Stakes on turf at Keeneland in October.

Laragh started her career racing over Woodbine’s artificial surface, but has yet to race on a conventional dirt track.

Terranova says that simply opens up options for her on the road to the Kentucky Oaks the first Friday in May.

“We didn’t want to start looking at the early races for 3-year-olds, but she will race against tough dirt fillies at some point,” he said. “She’s always been fantastic training on dirt. We are looking at the goal of the Oaks. We have a lot of options on how we get there.”



Competition Intense Among Gulfstream Jockeys



Owners and trainers at Gulfstream Park this season will not have to worry about getting a top rider for their horses, not with the strongest and deepest group of nationally ranked jockeys assembled here in years.

Leading the cast of regulars based here are John R. Velazquez, Edgar Prado, Eibar Coa, Kent Desormeaux, Cornelio Velasquez, Javier Castellano, Joe Bravo, Jose Lezcano, Rene Douglas and Elvis Trujillo.

They are joined this season for the first time by Julien Leparoux, who came out of a record-breaking Churchill Downs’ fall meet, and Alan Garcia, the talented 23-year-old who has emerged among the leading riders in New York, notably riding Da’ Tara to an upset victory in the Belmont Stakes (G1) last spring.

Going into Saturday’s 11th day of the meet here, Velazquez and Coa are tied for the early lead in the standings with 10 wins apiece, followed closely by Desormeaux and Lezcano only one back with nine victories apiece and Garcia fifth with eight tallies.

In addition to the veterans, two of the three finalists for Eclipse champion apprentice of 2008 are in action here with Paco Lopez, who is back and forth between Gulfstream and Tampa Bay after capturing the Calder meet title last year; and Inez Karlsson, who recently arrived from Chicago where she led the standings at the Hawthorne meet that ended last week..

Trainer Ken McPeek is off to a strong start after sending out seven winners in 10 days, three more than Graham Motion, Peter Walder and George Weaver, who are tied for second with four apiece. There are four others tied for fifth with three each.