“We’ve weighed the options and decided to go ahead and give him a chance,” said Gambolati Thursday morning from Palm Meadows. “His race here was very good to win after getting nailed at the start and beat a good field. I know we’re a little behind the eight-ball, but they only get one chance (Kentucky Derby).” Soaring Empire was bumped solidly at the start and rallied from eighth to score by three-quarters of a length.
Soaring Empire is a son of 2003 Florida Derby hero Empire Maker purchased for $190,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sales and won his career debut at Monmouth Park on Sept. 26 by 3 ¼ lengths and finished third in the Iroquois Stakes (G3) going a one-turn mile at Churchill Downs on Nov. 1. Castro has ridden Soaring Empire in all three of his starts.
Forward Gal Rematch in Cicada at Aqueduct Saturday
Lori and George Hall’s 3-year-old filly Bickersons romped home a seven-length winner of the $150,000 Forward Gal Stakes (G2) going seven furlongs on Feb. 27 at Gulfstream Park with jockey Joe Bravo aboard for trainer Kelly Breen, and the daughter of Silver Deputy runs back Saturday in the $100,000 Cicada Stakes (G3) going six furlongs at Aqueduct with Bravo going along for the ride.
Four of Bickerson’s seven rivals in the Cicada also made their last starts at Gulfstream, including Mr. and Mrs. William K. Warren’s Liam’s Dream and Red Oak Stable’s Romantic Hideaway, third and fourth, respectively, in the Forward Gal for trainers Rick Dutrow and Gregg Sacco.
In addition to the Cicada, South Florida-based horsemen will be represented in major stakes Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs, Oaklawn Park and Santa Anita Saturday along with several Gulfstream-based jockeys traveling for mounts in some of the races.
Leading Gulfstream trainer Todd Pletcher sends out WinStar Farm’s Super Saver to make his 3-year-old debut as the favorite in the $300,000 Tampa Bay Derby (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs, trainer Nick Zito has Lucky Shamrock Stable’s Tuvia’s Force in the race with Jose Lezcano to ride and Tom Albertrani runs Padua Stable’s Odysseus with Rajiv Maragh aboard.
Lezcano also rides Nancy Mazzoni’s 2009 Eclipse champion filly She Be Wild in the $175,000 Florida Oaks (G3) for trainer Wayne Catalano as she makes her first start since finishing fifth as the favorite in the Forward Gal in her first start since winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) at Santa Anita on Nov. 6. Pletcher will be represented in that race by Edward P. Evans’ Imaginary Saint.
Jockey Kent Desormeaux also makes the trip to Tampa Bay Saturday with his mounts to include Brushwood Stable’s 2009 Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic (G1) runner-up Mushka in the $150,000 Hillsborough Stakes (G3) for trainer Bill Mott and Michael Dubb and partners’ Cuff Me in the Florida Oaks for trainer Anthony Dutrow in her first start since finishing fourth in the Old Hat Stakes (G3) at Gulfsteam on Jan. 9.
Also shipping up for the Hillsborough will be J.H. Richmond-Watson’s English-bred 4-year-old filly Tottie with Jose Lezano to ride for trainer Chad Brown. The daughter of Fantastic Light has won her only two starts in the U.S. at Gulfstream this meet, most recently the Suwannee River Stakes (G3) on Feb. 6.
At Oaklawn Park Saturday, trainer Ken McPeek will have Chasing Dreams Stables 2008 LLC’s 3-year-old colt Noble’s Promise in the $300,000 Rebel Stakes (G3) and Peter Callahan’s 3-year-old filly Beautician in the $125,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3), both making their season debuts.
McPeek also will be represented in another very high-profile race as he runs Steve Stan Stable’s 4-year-old filly Striking Dancer against undefeated Zenyatta in the $250,000 Santa Margarita Invitational (G1) at Santa Anita on Saturday after the daughter of Smart Strike posted a 13-to-1 upset victory last out in the La Canada Stakes (G2) over the track on Feb. 14. That race, expected to run around 6:45 eastern, along with Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra’s 2010 debut at the Fair Grounds, will be simulcast live at Gulfstream Park immediately following the last live race.
Also in action at Santa Anita Saturday will be Wertheimer et Frere’s 3-year-old Interactif in the $150,000 San Felipe Stakes (G2) for trainer Todd Pletcher. The son of Broken Vow finished second by a nose last out as the favorite in the Hallandale Beach Stakes here on Feb. 7 and was flown to California on Wednesday.