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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


Edited Gulfstream Staff Release – His two-turn debut didn’t pan out, but trainer and co-owner Rohan Crichton is eager to give his rising 3-year-old star Real Macho another chance in Saturday’s $400,000 Coolmore Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park.

            The 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth, the last local prep for the $1 million Curlin Florida Derby (G1) March 30, will be one of nine stakes, eight graded, worth $1.85 million contested on a 14-race program that will get underway at 11:15 a.m.

            Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, Crichton, Daniel Walters and Dennis Smith’s Real Macho was an early nominee to the Triple Crown. He is by Mucho Macho Man, a career earner of more than $5.6 million who counted the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) among his nine career wins and whose bloodlines also include two-time Horse of the Year and 2014 Hall of Famer Curlin, the 2007 Preakness (G1) and Classic winner.

            In his only prior two-turn attempt, Real Macho raced evenly throughout and wound up fifth of six, beaten 9 ¾ lengths in an entry-level optional claiming allowance Jan. 5 at Gulfstream, his 3-year-old debut. Each his other three races have come at one mile, including a three-quarter-length maiden triumph Nov. 25.

            “That’s the million-dollar question,” Crichton said of two turns. “I’m obviously biased, but I don’t think that was the issue last time. I just can’t see this horse as being a one-turn miler. I just don’t. We did a couple things with him to try and see if we can get him to just listen to the rider more and be a bit more responsive.”

            One of those things was the removal of blinkers at the suggestion of Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano, who rode Real Macho in the allowance, for his most recent start. Without the equipment, Real Macho overcame an early bump to rally for a determined neck victory Feb. 3 under Tyler Gaffalione, who rides back from Post 4. Castellano will be aboard Antonio Sano-trained Dancing Groom from outermost Post 9.

            “I credit Javier because when a horse wins with the blinkers on it takes a lot to take them off one race after,” Crichton said. “Javier rode him in the two-turn allowance and said to me on both turns [Real Macho] was looking in the blinkers. He felt he was searching for something in there.

            “When he jumped off he said, ‘I want to ride him back and I think you should consider taking the blinkers off,’” he added. “That is a credit to the experience of Javier. It was his suggestion. He’s a Hall of Famer for a reason. We certainly have seen [Real Macho’s] confidence growing.”

            Real Macho benefited from a strong pace in his last-out victory, one Crichton is anxious to see materialize in the Fountain of Youth with the likes of Speak Easy, Victory Avenue and Grade 2 winner Dornoch among the field.

            “I’m hoping [for] the same kind of speed setup,” Crichton said. “It’s looking like a lot of these colts want to be on or close to the lead. I think our horse, the longer he goes the better he is. We’re hoping the Mucho Macho Man and the maternal grandsire kick in and he says, ‘I’m bred to do this.’”

               Hades’ Trainer Content to Watch and Wait for Florida Derby (G1)

            All continues to go smoothly for D. J. Stable and Robert Cotran’s undefeated Holy Bull (G3) winner Hades, a trend they and trainer Joe Orseno hope to see continue as they sit out Saturday’s $400,000 Coolmore Fountian of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park to await the $1 million Florida Derby (G1) four weeks later.

            Hades was able to set a moderate pace under jockey Paco Lopez in the 1 1/16-mile Holy Bull Feb. 3 at Gulfstream, briefly lost the lead to Fierceness after six furlongs but fought back and pulled clear to win by two lengths in a 9-1 upset of the reigning 2-year-old male champion, who wound up third.

            Since then, Hades, by multiple Grade 3-winning millionaire Awesome Slew, has continued to thrive at Gulfstream, which prompted the connections to give the Fountain of Youth some consideration before deciding to pass.

            “He’s doing great, that’s the problem. It’s hard to sit still,” Orseno said. “But in the grand scheme of things and what we’re trying to accomplish, it’s probably the right thing to do. I’ve seen too many people try to run in all three races here and then you have nothing left. We’re just trying to do right by the horse.”

            Should all go according to plan, Hades would be Orseno’s second Kentucky Derby (G1) starter and first since Thunder Blitz was fourth behind Monarchos in 2001. In 2000, Orseno skipped the Derby with Gulfstream allowance winner and Wood Memorial (G2) runner-up Red Bullet, who then won the Preakness (G1).

            “It’s not just [waiting for the Florida Derby], it’s everything after that,” Orseno said. “We’ve got a full year mapped out for him and planned. To make that you just can’t go to the well every time. It’s a nice problem to have.”

            Hades was purchased as a 2-year-old in training last April and debuted Dec. at Gulfstream, rallying from last after a quarter of a mile to win by a half-length in a 5 ½-furlong maiden optional claimer. He returned 22 days later to lead most of the way in an eight-length New Year’s Eve allowance romp over fellow Florida-breds.

            “I knew he was a very talented horse, so I thought if anything gets him beat [first time out], it’s the distance. He overcame it. Fortunately, Paco had a lot of faith in him,” Orseno said. “Second race was seven-eighths and Paco rode him pretty much the way he wanted to in there and had him in contention.

            “Going long, I think he’s a horse that will sit still. He does just about anything you ask him to do,” he added. “So, if he has a good mind and he doesn’t try to run off and he relaxes for the jock, I think he’ll get a distance all day long.”

            Hades showed as much in the Holy Bull, his two-turn debut. The Florida Derby is contested at 1 1/8 miles with the three Triple Crown races requiring horses to go 1 ¼ miles in the Derby, 1 3/16 in the Preakness and 1 ½ miles in the Belmont (G1).

            “It became fun in his second race at the top of the stretch, when he changed leads and just accelerated away from those horses. It was a wild moment for me, and I’ve had some wild moments with some big horses,” Orseno said. “He took me right there and I thought, ‘This horse could bring us back to some of the big races we always want to be in.’”

                       G1-Winning Millionaire Atone Returns in G3 Canadian Turf

            Three Diamonds Farm’s Grade 1-winning millionaire Atone, beaten less than two lengths in defense of his 2023 Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) title Jan. 27, will have another chance to leave Gulfstream Park a winner in Saturday’s $150,000 Canadian Turf (G3).

            The 1 1/16-mile Canadian Turf for 4-year-olds and up will be the 31st start for Atone, a 7-year-old Into Mischief gelding that has banked nearly $1.4 million in purse earnings since his Feb. 22, 2020 debut at Gulfstream.

            Most recently he was fourth in the Pegasus Turf, 1 ¾ lengths behind British filly Warm Heart in her career finale, just a length out of third despite a troubled trip. His 2023 Pegasus Turf upset was Atone’s first graded-stakes victory after placing four previous times.

            “He’s a hell of a horse,” Maker’s assistant Nolan Ramsey said. “He was all heart in the Pegasus. Being down on the inside, I think he may have hit the board. I don’t know if we’d have necessarily beat the big filly, but he definitely showed up.

            “I knew there was some questions going into it off of that mediocre performance in the allowance race, but he’s come out of the race great and has really been training well,” he added. “I expect a really, really big effort from him.”

            Atone has gone winless in seven starts since his Pegasus Turf win, but the connections were encouraged by his latest effort to bring him back in the Canadian Turf, a race Maker previously won with Hogy in 2018.

            “He showed his old self in the Pegasus,” Ramsey said. “Based on the quality of the field, I think he ran just as good a race finishing fourth as he did winning it last year. He ran against some really tough horses in there. He didn’t have the cleanest of trips and he found a way to be competitive. He always does. He’s so consistent.”

            Maker will also send out Jordan Wycoff’s 5-year-old mare Anatolian in the $150,000 The Very One (G3) on the Gulfstream turf. Anatolian was third by two lengths in the 1 ½-mile La Prevoyante (G3) Jan. 27 after winning back-to-back off-the-turf races going 1 ¼ and 1 1/16 miles, the latter in the Claiming Crown Tiara over a sloppy Fair Grounds surface.

“She ran huge for us last time,” Ramsey said. “It was unfortunate the Claiming Crown came off the turf, but she’s a nice horse. The distance was, I think, the key. She’s been training great and I’m really looking forward to seeing her run. The longer the better for her.”

                        Unbeaten Leslie’s Rose Taking Step Up in G2 Davona Dale

            Whisper Hill Farm’s undefeated Leslie’s Rose will put her perfect record to the test when she makes her stakes debut against fellow unbeatens Into Champagne and champion Just F Y I in Saturday’s $200,000 Davona Dale (G2) presented by FanDuel TV for 3-year-old fillies at Gulfstream Park.

            Out of the Galileo mare Wildwood Rose, Leslie’s Rose is by Into Mischief, who also sired last year’s 3-year-old champion filly Pretty Mischievous. Leslie’s Rose fetched $1.15 million as a yearling in September 2022, and carried lofty aspirations into a rookie season that didn’t get started until mid-November.

            Leslie’s Rose was no better than third choice in her unveiling, a 6 ½-furlong maiden special weight at Aqueduct where she romped by 9 ¼ lengths in front-running fashion while being wrapped up by jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. in 1:16.73.

            “We thought she’d run well the first time because we had high hopes for her, but that even exceeded our expectations,” Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher said. “I liked the way she came out of that, I liked the way she handed herself stepping up into her next race and she’s continued to train very professionally.”

            Pletcher brought Leslie’s Rose to South Florida and gave her four works at Palm Beach Downs for her 3-year-old debut Jan. 11 at Gulfstream, a seven-furlong optional claiming allowance where she pressed the pace for a half-mile before taking a short lead into the stretch and winning by a length in 1:23.36.

            The performance by Leslie’s Rose stood out after runner-up Gun Song came back to cruise by 5 ¾ lengths under similar conditions going one mile Feb. 9 at Gulfstream. Leslie’s Rose has since had five works for her step up into stakes company, the most recent a half-mile in 48.42 seconds Feb. 24, second-fastest of 37 horses.

            “She’s a filly that came in with high expectations and so far she’s filled that role,” Pletcher said. “I thought she was very impressive in both her races. She was flattered by the filly that she beat last time coming back to win an allowance race impressively. She’s been training really well. We’ve been targeting this since the allowance race, and she’s looked very good coming into it.”

            Ortiz returns to ride Leslie’s Rose from Post 2 in a field of eight, just to the inside of Just F Y I, the champion 2-year-old filly of 2023 whose three wins in as many starts include the Frizette (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1). Into Champagne, in outermost Post 8, improved to 2-0 with her victory in the 6 ½-furlong Glitter Woman Jan. 7 at Gulfstream.

            Pletcher has won the Davona Dale three times, with Onlyforyou (2014), R Heat Lightning (2011) and Wait a While (2006). Ortiz is seeking his first Davona Dale victory.

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