EDITED PRESS RELEASE — Sagamore Farm’s stakes-winning homebred He Hate Me, beaten as the favorite in his graded debut seven weeks ago, will face state-bred company for the first time as he brings trainer Stanley Hough back to Gulfstream Park West for Saturday’s $75,000 Sprint Preview.
The six-furlong Sprint Preview for Florida-bred 3-year-olds and up is among nine stakes worth $675,000 in purses on an 11-race Sunshine Millions Preview program that serves as a prep for the Sunshine Millions Day program Jan. 18, 2020 during Gulfstream Park’s Championship Meet.
Hough, 71, was leading trainer at the former Calder Race Course from 1976-80, registering a record 110 wins in 1977, and amassing 632 overall. He also won or shared Tropical at Calder titles from 1975-76 to 1979-80, and was inducted in the track’s Hall of Fame in 1996.
He Hate Me, winner of the 2017 Tremont Stakes in his second career race, will be Hough’s first starter over the Gulfstream West surface since Tiz Stormin on Dec. 30, 2006 at Calder. His last win at the track came with Hopes and Dreams on Dec. 10, 2006.
“We had a lot of success there. It was a special time,” Hough said. “I was reasonably young when I came there and we had a lot of good years. It was fun … and it was good to be young, too.”
Hough, a winner of 2,191 career races, retired from training in April 2012 and later signed on to be Sagamore’s racing manager in 2015. Hough returned to training in September 2018 after Sagamore restructured its operation, and he ran 16 horses at last winter’s Championship Meet at Gulfstream Park with six wins, three seconds and two thirds, led by Recruiting Ready’s triumph in the Gulfstream Sprint (G3).
He Hate Me ran twice at Gulfstream Park last winter, winning an optional claiming allowance in March. He has yet to race over the Gulfstream West surface, but turned in his first local work with a bullet five-furlong breeze in 1:00.15 Nov. 2 at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach County. It was the fastest of 13 horses at the distance.
“He’s been down probably eight or 10 days now. He had a nice work the other day and he’s doing great,” Hough said. “We gave him a little time after his last race and he’s done well. We’re hoping for a cleaner trip this time.”
He Hate Me is coming off a third-place finish in the seven-furlong Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (G3) Sept. 21 at Laurel Park, where he was steadied past the three-sixteenths pole while making a four-wide move. He wound up beaten four lengths by Killybegs Captain.
“He had a little bit of trouble that cost him,” Hough said. “I don’t know whether it cost him the race, but it sure cost him momentum and everything. He was starting to run and kind of got knocked off stride but was able to gather himself somewhat and finish up. I think it hurt him, but he ran well. It was a tough race.”
He Hate Me owns four wins, three seconds and three thirds from 12 lifetime starts with $281,620 in purse earnings. He was second in the 2018 Pasco Stakes and 2019 Tale of the Cat Stakes, the latter Aug. 9 at Saratoga. He has been third or better in five of six tries at seven furlongs, two of them wins.
“He’s been very consistent for us. I think he’ll run a good race. I think the competition stacks up with what he’s been running against all year,” Hough said. “We’re looking forward to getting him back in a race and see how he does.”
Tracy Pinchin’s multiple stakes winner Jackson, winner of the 6 ½-furlong Juvenile Sprint Preview last fall in his only previous try at Gulfstream West, goes after his third stakes victory of the year in the Sprint. He captured the OBS Sophomore Stakes and FSS Silver Charm at Tampa Bay Downs in late spring.
“He’s doing great, very good,” trainer Jose Pinchin said. “He had a couple of stakes wins and he had a couple of seconds, so he’s had a pretty good year. I’m looking forward to the race.”
Jackson, a 3-year-old Kantharos colt, hasn’t won since the Silver Charm. In three subsequent tries, all Gulfstream Park stakes, he was third in the seven-furlong Thirsty Fish and Carry Back before a troubled run in the Sept. 21 Bear’s Den last out, contested on turf.
“He didn’t get a chance to run the last time. He got a bad break, he got bounced around and dropped back and it was a little bit far for him on the turf. He’s back on the dirt now,” Pinchin said. “He won the only time he ran [at Gulfstream West], so I guess that must mean something.”
Imaginary Stables and Glenn Ellis’ Royal Squeeze is entered to make his return, not having raced since finishing second by a neck to Art G is Back in the seven-furlong Benny the Bull Stakes Aug. 24 at Gulfstream. The 7-year-old Wildcat Heir gelding won four consecutive starts after being claimed for $25,000 in February, and was fourth by 2 ½ lengths in the six-furlong Smile Sprint (G3) June 29.
Front Loaded, Shoshone Brave, Soldollie and Travy Boy round out the field