Jockey Alan Garcia rides Grasshopper for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin in the 66th running of the storied event won early in its history by Armed, Coaltown, Sailor, Round Table, Bald Eagle, Kelso and Gun Bow and later by Forego, Bowl Game, Christmas Past, Cigar, Skip Away and Corinthian.
Grasshopper was sent to the sidelines after finishing a dull sixth in the Ben Ali Stakes (G3) at Keeneland in April last year and returned this winter in training with McLaughlin at Palm Meadows. In one start tuning up for Saturday’s race he scored a game half-length victory over a strong field in a one-mile allowance race on Feb. 3.
John Velazquez will be aboard This Ones for Phil in his second start this season after they teamed up for a hard-fought nose victory in the Sunshine Millions Sprint going six furlongs here on Jan. 30 for trainer Rick Dutrow. The chestnut gelding by Untuttable won the Sunshine Millions Dash here early last year and the seven-furlong Swale Stakes (G2) after the disqualification of Big Drama in a memorable renewal.
Another proven Graded stakes performer in the field of 11 is Stronach Stable’s 5-year-old Harlem Rocker with Eibar Coa in the saddle for leading trainer Todd Pletcher. The roan/gray Canadian homebred by Macho Uno finished fourth behind Quality Road in the Hal’s Hope Stakes (G3) here on opening day, Jan. 3, but was likely not helped by a slow pace working against his closing style.
Harlem Rocker won the Withers Stakes (G2) at Aqueduct, Prince of Wales at Fort Erie and finished first in the Cigar Mile (G1) at Aqueduct as a 3-year-old in 2008, but was disqualified in the latter after finishing a nose ahead of Tale of Ekati. Harlem Rocker made only one start last year, beaten a head in a Churchill Downs allowance in November.
Trainer Marty Wolfson sends out a pair of contenders with Elvis Trujillo to ride Team Valor International’s 5-year-old Motovato and Javier Castellano named on Estate of Edmund Gann’s 5-year-old You and I Forever. The two finished third and seventh last out, respectively, in the seven-furlong Gulfstream Sprint Championship (G2) on Feb. 13.
Motovato is a son of Proud Citizen and was beaten only a length for it all by Munnings in the Gulfstream Sprint after being virtually eliminated after breaking in the air at the start. You and I Forever is a son of A.P. Indy that ran well to finish second in the Hal’s Hope behind Quality Road, but obviously didn’t show his best in the Gulfstream Sprint.
Completing the field are R.L. Johnson’s Congressional Page. C.H. Marquez, Jr.; Darley Stable’s Past the Point, Edgar Prado; Judson Streicher’s Le Grand Cru, Cornelio Velasquez; Joseph LaCombe Stable’s Supreme Summit, Paco Lopez; Currey Delmer URS Racing’s Inkado, Jesus Castanon; and Robert LaPenta’s Cool Coal Man, Eddie Castro.
Also to be run on the Gulfstream Park Handicap card will be the $75,000 Ocala Stakes for Florida-bred fillies and mares and trainer Marty Wolfson sends out the likely choice in Farnsworth Stable’s 6-year-old Jessica Is Back with Elvis Trujillo after her game runner-up effort last out in the Sunshine Millions Distaff on Jan. 30.
Completing the field of eight are Tom and Helene Andreandakis’ Mary Kisses, John Prete’s Sweetsouthernqueen, Alter’s Racing Stable’s With Moms Approval, Farnsworth Stables’ Wyatt’s Women, Desirae Potter and David Ludwig’s Bob’s Jawbreaker, Rayzin the Bar Stable’s Fearless Leader and Shirley Duco’s Glotona.