Jockey Jose Lezcano gets a return call on Formidable after they teamed up to score by two lengths in a ‘three other than’ allowance going six furlongs on Mar 18. The son of Sky Mesa’s only defeat here on the main track was a very good third-place effort in the one-mile Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2) in mid-March last year when beaten only two lengths by Smooth Air.
Jockey Elvis Trujillo rides Awakino Cat, who won both the Quick Call and Troy Stakes at the Spa to contribute to Rice’s leading trainer for the meet title run. A son of Stormy Atlantic, Awakino Cat finished fourth in a Tampa Bay Downs turf allowance sprint on Feb. 14 in his first start since Sept. 9 at Philadelphia Park when finishing eighth in the Turf Monster Stakes.
Jockey Joe Bravo will be aboard Perfect Officer for trainer George Weaver and is set to make his first start since finishing fourth in an allowance turf sprint at Keeneland on Oct. 28 run on ‘soft’ turf. The son of Officer finished a close-up fourth in the Quick Call behind Awakino Cat and won the Simon Northrop Stakes over the course there in his next start.
Another turf sprint stakes specialist in the field Sunday is owner-trainer James Dodgen’s 8-year-old gelding Hold the Salt with Eduardo Nunez in the saddle. The son of Salt Lake has won 13 of 37 career starts overall and shows nine wins and four seconds from 24 tries on turf. Hold the Salt won the six-furlong Kentucky Turf Dash at Kentucky Downs in 2008 and just missed when third in the race last year, beaten a half-length for it all.
Completing the field for Sunday’s feature are John Donato’s Lady Rizzi, Eddie Castro; Jagger Inc.’s Sneaking Uponyou, Paco Lopez; E. Paul Robsham Stables’ Gold Trippi, Luis Saez; and DeBill Racing’s Big Push, Edgar Prado.
Lopez Takes Command in Gulfstream Standings with Thursday Triple
Jockey Paco Lopez took over the lead in the Gulfstream Park rider standings with three winners on Thursday’s program, overtaking Javier Castellano at 52-50 with John Velazquez still third at 46, followed by Elvis Trujillo fourth at 42 and Rajiv Maragh fifth with 39 tallies.
Lopez, Eclipse Award Apprentice in 2008, and Trujillo are expected to continue riding here through the final weeks of the session that closes on Apr. 24 while Castellano and Velazquez have shifted their business to Keeneland and New York.
Also riding three winners on Thursday was veteran Joe Bravo, who will join Lopez and Trujillo to be based at Monmouth Park this summer.
Fountain of Youth Rematch in Wood Memorial Saturday
Zayat Stable’s brilliant 3-year-old Eskendereya will be the odds-on morning line favorite in Saturday’s $750,000 Wood Memorial (G1) at Aqueduct with regular rider John Velazquez aboard after they teamed up to romp home an 8 ½ lengths winner of the $250,000 Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) last out at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 20.
The chestnut son of Giant’s Causeway won an ‘a other than’ allowance race going one mile over the Gulfstream track in his season debut on Jan. 7 for trainer Todd Pletcher and the Fountain of Youth victory sent him high up on most lists of leading Kentucky Derby (G1) prospects.
Finishing second to Eskenedereya in the Fountain of Youth was Robert LaPenta and Jacks or Better Farm’s hard-hitting Jackson Bend and he comes back in the Wood Memorial with trainer Nick Zito hoping to narrow the gap between the two in a final Kentucky Derby tune-up. Jackson Bend finished a close-up second in the one-mile Holy Bull Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream in his season debut on Jan. 23.
An interesting match-up of last out winners at Gulfstream will come one race after the Wood on the Aqueduct card with Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier and Derrick Smith’s 4-year-old Munnings and A. Steven Miles, Jr.’s 4-year-old Warrior’s Reward facing off in the $250,000 Carter Handicap (G1) at seven furlongs.
Velazquez rides Munnings as the favorite for Pletcher after they teamed up to win the seven-furlong Gulfstream Sprint Championship (G2) on Feb. 13. Jockey Julien Leparoux gets a return call on Warrior’s Reward for trainer Ian Wilkes after the son of Medaglia d’Oro won a seven-furlong allowance race at Gulfstream on Feb. 11 in his first start since November at Churchill Downs.