A 24-year-old native of Mexico, Lopez finished eighth in the Gulfstream standings last year and appears bound for a much better finish this season as Thursday’s performance elevated him to third in the standings with 42 victories, trailing only Javier Castellano on top with 50 and John Velazquez second at 46.
Castellano rides at Fair Grounds Friday and Saturday while Velazquez made the trip to Dubai for mounts on World Cup Day Saturday, but both will be back at Gulfstream at least for Sunday’s card to ride leading contenders in the $150,000 Orchid Stakes (G3) before shifting their tack to Kentucky and New York.
Bold Start & Arson Squad Prominent on Skip Away Roster
Lawrence Carroll’s 6-year-old Bold Start and Jay Em Ess Stable’s 7-year-old gelding Arson Squad both shipped out of Gulfstream Park to finish one-two last out in the Challenger Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on Mar. 6 and could meet again in next Saturday’s $125,000 Skip Away Stakes (G3).
The two veteran campaigners are among 20 older horses nominated to the 1 3/16 miles test as is Circle E Racing and partners’ 6-year-old Timber Reserve, who also made the trip to Tampa Bay from trainer John Kimmel’s Palm Meadows base to finish third in the Challenger after winning a Gulfstream allowance on Jan. 18 in his first start this year.
Arson Squad is a son of Brahms trained by Rick Dutrow and has earned $932,000 with six wins from 25 career starts and was in Dubai at this time last year finishing 11th behind Well Armed in the World Cup.
Arson Squad bounced back to finish a close-up fourth in the Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) in June, beaten only 1 ¼ lengths for it all by Macho Again, and didn’t run again until a good third-place effort in a one-mile allowance e race here on Feb. 3 before the Challenger.
Bold Start has won nearly $600,000 and went wire-to-wire to win the Challenger by 4 ¼ lengths in track record time for 1 1/16 miles. Trained by Ken McPeek, the son of Jump Start was impressive winning a one-mile allowance over the Gulfstream track on Feb. 21 in his previous start.