Michael Matz, who will saddle Union Rags for a start in Saturday’s $1 million Florida Derby (G1), will keep busy before the key Kentucky Derby (G1) prep by saddling And Why Not in the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) one race earlier on the 13-race program.
And Why Not will be making her 2012 debut in the 1 1/8-mile stakes for 3-year-old fillies against the likes of the 1-2 finishers in the Davona Dale (G2), Yara and Grace Hall, as well as Zo Impressive, a late-developing filly who has won twice at Gulfstream in impressive fashion.
The Gulfstream Oaks will likely be a prep for the Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill Downs on May 4.
The daughter of Street Cry won at first asking at Saratoga in August and three starts later finished second behind multiple graded-stakes winner On Fire Baby in the Pocahontas (G2) at Churchill Downs, closing with a seven-wide move to fall short by less than a length.
Matz may be hitting the Derby trail with Teeth of the Dog, a lightly raced colt who broke his maiden in a 1 1/8-mile race at Gulfstream on Feb. 4.
“Teeth of the Dog is going to run in the Illinois Derby (G3) if he gets in. If he doesn’t get in, then he’ll run in the Wood (G1) or one of the races at Keeneland, the Blue Grass (G1) or the Lexington (G3),” said Matz, who was informed by Hawthorne officials that his colt is on the borderline of getting into the race.
The son of Bluegrass Cat has run three times, all during the Gulfstream meeting, finishing third in his debut on Dec. 8 and second on Jan. 7 before breaking through with a front-running victory on Feb. 4.
Garoffalo Looking to Pull Off Another Upset With Bartolome
Jose Garoffalo, who saddled Yara for a 64-1 upset victory in the Davona Dale (G2) last month, will give Bartolome a shot to upend a star-studded field in Saturday’s $1 million Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park.
Bartolome, who is rated in the morning line at 30-1, finished third in a Gulfstream allowance race at 1 1/8 miles last time out after finishing a distant seventh behind El Padrino, rated second at 2-1 in the morning line for the Florida Derby, in an allowance at Gulfstream on Jan. 29.
“He’s going to run his race without pressure. In this type of race when you run without pressure, maybe you can hit the board or win the race,” Garoffalo said. “The horse is training very good and improving week by week.”
Yara pulled off the most high-profile upset of the Gulfstream Park meeting when she prevailed over heavily favored Grace Hall by a neck in the Davona Dale (G2) on Feb. 25. The daughter of Put It Back will clash again with Grace Hall in Saturday’s $300,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2).
“It’s a different situation now. Now we have a shot, so everyone is going to pay attention to my filly,” Garoffalo said. “She won’t have the same payoff as last time for sure.”
Making her first start around two turns in the 1 1/16-mile Davona Dale, the Florida-bred filly stalked Grace Hall before overtaking the 4-5 favorite nearing the finish line.
“I knew that race was going to be tough, but I had a lot of confidence in my filly. I was looking for a race at that distance, and I think the extra half furlong is going to be still better for her,” Garoffalo said. “She’s training good. She’s ready for a race.”
Rogue Romance & Gourmet Dinner Clash in Tough Allowance
Saturday’s Florida Derby Day program at Gulfstream Park will get off to a fast start with a strong field of nine older horses drawn for a ‘two other than’ allowance race at one-mile featuring the return to competition of Catesby Clay’s 4-year-old Rogue Romance and second start back from a lengthy layoff for Our Sugar Bear Stable’s 4-year-old Gourmet Dinner.
Jockey Julien Leparoux rides Rogue Romance for trainer Ken McMcPeek in his first start since they teamed up to finish a good third as the favorite in the Risen Star Stakes (G2) at Fair Grounds early last year, a race won by Mucho Macho Man. Rogue Romance has been on the sidelines since then.
“He broke a foot in training here after that race while in training for the Louisiana Derby (G2),” said McPeek Thursday morning. “We had to give him a lot of time off. It was a big disappointment because we thought we had a Triple Crown horse. He’s doing great now and we’re excited to have him coming back.”
A chestnut son of Smarty Jones purchased for $65,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sales, Rogue Romance ran four times as a 2-year-old in 2010, finishing third behind Unclo Mo in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Churchill Downs after rallying from last of 12 to post a 2 ½ lengths victory in the Bourbon Stakes (G3) at Keeneland with Leparoux aboard.
Gourmet Dinner finished an even fourth behind Travelin Man in a 6 1/2-furlong allowance race run over a ‘sloppy’ track here on Feb. 9, his first start since finishing a good second to Soldat in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) in late February last year for trainer Steve Standridge.
A son of Trippi, Gourmet Dinner returned to competition with trainer Bruce Brown, who said the long layoff was due to “nagging shin injuries. He was given all the time he needed. He’s a big heavy horse. He breezed well but it’s easier to run him into fitness.”
Gourmet Dinner was the star 2-year-old colt developed at Calder in 2010 when he won two of the three ‘open’ divisions of the Florida Stallion Stakes and then scored in the rich Delta Jackpot (G3) in Louisiana that fall. In two more starts before the Fountain of Youth he shipped to California to finish fourth in the CashCall Futurity (G1) at Hollywood Park in December and finished third in the Holy Bull Stakes (G3) here in January, a race won by Dialed In.
Not many good races at this meet go without a contender from leading trainer Todd Pletcher’s arsenal of talent and this race is no exception as he sends out E. Paul Robsham Stable’s 4-year-old Kentucky homebred Simba’s Story with jockey John Velazquez to ride.
A son of Elusive Quality, Simba’s Story won a one-mile allowance here on Jan. 22 and came back with a good try finishing fourth behind Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) runner-up Force Freeze in the seven-furlong Gulfstream Sprint Championship (G2) on Feb. 18.
Completing the field for this intriguing first half of the Daily Double Saturday are Gilbert Campbell’s Watch Me Go, winner of the Tampa Bay Derby (G3) last year, Fantasy Lane Stable’s Uptowncharlybrown, Peras International’s Andersonstate, Ione and Herb Elkins’ Dream Maestro, Midwest Thoroughbreds’ Wiki and Herman Van Den Broeck’s Matty’s Trail.