Edited Gulfstream Staff Release – The Saffie Joseph Jr.-trained Fawning and Midnight Bella had the distinction of being the first horses to breeze over Gulfstream Park’s new turf course Monday morning, three days prior to the long-awaited return of turf racing on Thursday’s program.
Fawning, ridden by veteran jockey Julien Leparoux, and Midnight Bella, guided by former jockey Aaron Gryder, worked a half-mile in company on the outer part of the course. Fawning raced outside Midnight Bella before getting the better of her workmate nearing the wire. The official clocking for the easy breeze was 53.40 seconds.
“It was very nice. It obviously was great looking, but it felt good to be on it too. The horse got over it very nicely,” Leparoux said. “There’s a nice cushion and when we came back there weren’t very many divots.”
Gryder, who rode 3,905 winners before stepping away in 2020 and taking a management position with Gulfstream’s parent company I/ST Racing, was equally pleased with the condition of the turf course.
“They skipped over nicely. There’s a good cushion to it and they weren’t cutting into it much,” said Gryder, Senior Vice President of Racing Operations.
Joseph, the leading trainer during the current Sunshine Meet after claiming his first Championship Meet title last winter and capturing the spring/summer Royal Palm Meet title, is obviously looking forward to the return of turf racing that came to a halt in June for the construction of the new course that is virtually identical to the one at sister track Santa Anita..
“Tapeta has been a good filler, but you obviously want to have the turf as an option,” Joseph said. “Fawning worked on it and she’s going to run on it on Sunday. Midnight Bella is going to run next week. Both of them are going to run on the grass, so it was good to get a work on it.
“It’s a firm turf, but you’re not hearing any noise,” Joseph added. “Sometimes you hear horses rattle, but this has a good cushion. It’s in great shape.”