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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing

GULF SEASON HEATING UP

Edited Gulfstream Staff Release Three-time Championship Meet titlist Luis Saez returned to action at Gulfstream Park Sunday in advance of making a title defense during the 2022-2023 Championship Meet that gets underway Dec. 26.

            Saez guided Mark Casse-trained Toeris into the Gulfstream Park winner’s circle following Sunday’s Race 9 feature, a $71,000 optional claiming allowance for fillies and mares at a mile on turf. Toeris ($7), who stalked the early pace while saving round, kicked in through the stretch to prevail by a half-length, providing her jockey with his 251st victory of 2022 and 3124th win of his career and a winning homecoming.

            “I’m pretty grateful to be back here. It’s a place where I have a lot of good memories. It’s the place that I started. Being back is very special for me,” said Saez, who ventured from Panama to South Florida in 2009.

            Saez, a back-to-back Championship Meet titlist in 2016-2017 and 2017-2018, reclaimed the title last year with 122 victories, dethroning three-time champion Irad Ortiz Jr.

            “It was a great meet. We had a lot of great horses to ride in big races. A lot of people gave us the opportunity to ride their horses,” said Saez, who most recently claimed the riding title at Churchill Downs’ fall meeting. “This year, we’ll work hard and hope for the best.”

Gulfstream will race five days weekly, Wednesday-thru-Sunday, with a 12:10 p.m. first-race post time daily.  Saez is hardly easing into a routine at Gulfstream, where he is named on a total of 30 mounts Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

            Saez has been named to ride multiple Grade 1 stakes-placed Jesus’ Team in Thursday’s Race 8 feature that will likely serve as a prep for the $150,000 Harlan’s Holiday (G3) December 31. The 1 1/16-mile optional claiming allowance will mark the return of Super Corinto, the highly regarded Argentine-bred Chilean import who lost his recent U.S. debut by a half-length. Super Corinto captured a Group 1 stakes in his last start in Chile, defeating favored O’Connor, who won his U.S. debut Oct. 16 at Gulfstream Park for trainer Saffie Joseph Jr.

            Jose D’Angelo-trained Jesus’ Team, who finished second behind Knicks Go n the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) and Pegasus World Cup (G1) before being sidelined for 15 months, is scheduled to make his second start off the layoff. The 5-year-old son of Tapiture was never a factor in a one-turn mile optional claiming allowance Nov. 12. Saez was aboard Jesus’ Team for the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile before guiding him to a victory in the Claiming Crown Jewel.

            On Saturday, Saez will team with Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher with Ari Gold for the $75,000 Pulpit and trainer Jonathan Thomas with Delight for the $75,000 Wait a While. The 1 1/16-mile races for juveniles will be the first stakes races conducted over Gulfstream Park’s new turf course.

            Saez will be followed to Gulfstream Park this week by Junior Alvarado, who is scheduled to make his return on Wednesday’s card; Jose Ortiz, who is slated to ride Thursday, and Irad Ortiz Jr., who is named to ride five races Saturday.

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