Shadwell Stable’s Taqarub heads into Saturday’s $250,000 Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) and West Point Thoroughbreds and partners’ filly Justwhistledixie is set to run in Sunday’s $150,000 Davona Dale Stakes (G2). The two companion events will be run at one mile.
Justwhistledixie, a daughter of Dixie Union, has won three straight, including the Ruthless Stakes and an overnight stakes at Aqueduct. She drilled a half-mile Sunday morning in 48 2/5 at Palm Meadows.
Both the colt and the filly have had plenty of time to acclimate to the South Florida winter. McLaughlin, a former assistant to Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, says his operation always prepares to ship into and out of any climate.
“The good thing about our team in New York is we always keep the stalls heated, blankets on them and we don’t let them grow thick winter coats,” said McLaughlin. “They’re ready to go anywhere we need them to go.”
Justwhistledixie has been quick in her sprint races and will be stretching out to a mile for the first time in the Davona Dale. McLaughlin indicated a change could be coming in her running style when she teams with Alan Garcia next Sunday.
“She was quick because that’s what we needed her to be at that point,” he said. “We used to have to really rub on her to get her to go from the gate and she eventually came around. Now she’s out there with just mild urging and it’s better. She should be close to the pace, but I think she’ll be able to sit a little going a mile.”
Striking Dancer Returns in Wednesday Allowance Feature
Stevestan Stable’s 3-year-old filly Striking Dancer was last seen finishing a game second in the Caressing Stakes on turf at Churchill Downs on Nov. 29, and is entered to make her 2009 debut in Wednesday’s eighth race allowance feature at Gulfstream Park.
Leading rider Kent Desormeaux rides Striking Dancer for leading trainer Ken McPeek in the one mile turf test, which drew 16 3-year-old fillies with only 12 to start. Striking Dancer drew post 4.
The chestnut daughter of Smart Strike was a $110,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase. She broke her maiden by 5¾ lengths over the Churchill turf course prior to her good effort in the Caressing when beaten less than a length by the winner.
Other contenders likely to draw support include Bridlewood Farm’s Eden’s Storm, Rene Douglas; Dell Ridge Farm’s Bluegrass Princess, Alan Garcia; and Darley Stable’s Kiawah Cat, Jermaine Bridgmohan.
Eden’s Storm is a Florida homebred daughter of Stormy Atlantic and half-sister to turf stakes stars Paradise Creek and Wild Event. Trained by Christophe Clement, the chestnut broke her maiden by 8¼ lengths last out at Calder on Nov. 27 in her second career start.
Bluegrass Princess is a daughter of Dynaformer purchased for $285,000 as a weanling at the Keeneland November sales. Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, she finished third in an overnight stakes at Belmont Park in late October in her third start and only outing on grass before finishing fifth in the Demoiselle Stakes (G2) on the main track at Aqueduct on Nov. 29.
Completing the body of the field for Wednesday’s feature are Jess Yawitz’ Never Lie, Zayat Stable’s Jehan, Terry Hamilton’s Harmonious Union, Joseph Riccelli’s Bambolina, Three Diamonds Farm’s Seminole Lass, G. Watts Humphrey, Jr.’s Direct Line, Alex Campbell, Jr.’s It’s My Day and Ol Memorial Stable and C.E. Glasscock’s Sandi’s Ready.
Left on the ‘also-eligible’ list were Track Ho Farm’s Tailbytherail, E. Paul Robsham Stable’s Gold Record, Thomas Conway’s Complicity and Michael Strauss’s Wild Tigress.
Einstein California-Bound for ‘Big Cap’
With Grade 1 wins on turf and Grade 1 placings on dirt, the next challenge for Midnight Cry Stable’s 7-year-old horse Einstein will be a synthetic surface. After working Sunday morning at Gulfstream Park, he will get that chance in the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap (G1) on Sat. Mar. 7.
The Brazilian-bred son of Spend a Buck is coming off a third-place effort in the Donn Handicap (G1) here on Jan. 31. Sunday’s work was his first since that effort when he overcame a wide post to finish in the money, 2 1/2-lengths behind winner Albertus Maximus.
“He was super and really ready to work today,” said trainer Helen Pitts-Blasi, who sent Einstein five furlongs in 1:00 3/5 under jockey Julien Leparoux, fastest of 27 horses timed at the distance. “His last race took a lot out of him, but he’s come out of it good and Julien said that he was great today.”
Of Einstein’s 23 career races, six wins have come in 16 grass starts, including two wins in the Gulfstream Park Turf (G1) in 2006 and 2008. He has also won three times in seven dirt races, most notably the Clark Handicap (G2) at Churchill Downs last on Nov. 28. Four of his overall nine career victories have come on wet dirt tracks or turf.
Now he gets to try Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride artificial surface, and Pitts-Blasi is looking forward to the challenge.
“It should be very interesting because (people say) that grass horses should like it,” she said. “I’ve got a horse that is probably more of a grass horse than a dirt horse, but he does deal with both very well. A million dollars is enough of a reason to find out.”
Einstein will leave Wednesday (Feb. 25) from West Palm Beach Airport and spend 10 days in Arcadia, Calif. Pitts-Blasi plans on working the horse over the surface once before the historic 1¼-miles test.
Big Drama Back to Work
Harold Queen’s 3-year-old Florida homebred Big Drama breezed an easy half-mile in 50 flat Sunday morning at Calder, his first workout since Jan. 18 as the colt’s training schedule was interrupted by a bone bruise that required surgery after kicking himself in a shin in his stall.
“I was very pleased with his work this morning,” said trainer David Fawkes. “It’s a good start, but I don‘t have anything in particular in mind just yet until he gets further along. The good thing about him is that he’ll come along quickly, so I wouldn’t rule anything out at this point.
The son of Montbrook won his last five starts last year, including a sweep of the three ‘open’ divisions of the Florida Stallion Stakes series at Calder and the $750,000 Delta Jackpot (G3) at Delta Downs in Louisiana on Dec. 5, earning enough in that race to virtually guarantee him a berth in the Kentucky Derby (G1) if he is up to the challenge.
Also prominent on the Calder work tab Sunday morning was Mount Joy Stable’s 4-year-old Florida homebred Smooth Air, who was timed seven furlongs in 1:29 for trainer Bennie Stutts Jr. as he gets ready for his next likely start in the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2) to be run at one mile on Sat., Mar. 14.
The son of Smooth Jazz finished a game second by a half-length last out in the Tallahassee Stakes going one mile on grass here on Feb. 7 in his first start since running a respectable seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Santa Anita on Oct. 25, beaten only 5¼ lengths.