By Gulfstream Press Staff – A lot has happened since the last time Jesus’ Team and Sole Volante clashed at Gulfstream Park 13 months ago. Jesus’ Team went on to become multiple Grade 1 stakes-placed while competing against some of the best horses in the world, while Sole Volante went on to run in the Belmont Stakes (G1) and Kentucky Derby (G1).
The two 4-year-olds will reunite in Sunday’s $60,000 City of Dania, a mile overnight handicap in which Jesus’ Team will carry 127 pounds, nine pounds more than the horse that had defeated him in a stakes-quality optional claiming allowance at Gulfstream June 10, 2020.
While acknowledging the disparity in weight assignments, trainer Jose D’Angelo is willing to accept the challenge for Jesus’ Team first start since Grupo 7C Racing Stable’s color-bearer finished sixth in the $10 million Dubai World Cup (G1) March 27.
“I think he’s come along very good. He is good and sharp. I think it is a good spot for him coming off a layoff,” D’Angelo said. “I know he has to carry a lot of weight, but I think it is not a big deal.”
Jesus’s Team won a $25,000 claiming race in his first race after winning a $35,000 maiden claiming race and first race after being transferred to D’Angelo. The son of Tapiture finished second, beaten by three-quarters of a length by Sole Volante, in his next start before eight consecutive stakes races.
D’Angelo and Jesus’ Team hit the road to face the best company in the country for the rest of the year and faring extremely well. The Kentucky-bred colt went on to finish third in the Preakness (G1) and Jim Dandy (G2) before finishing second behind Knicks Go in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) at Keeneland.
“For me, it was amazing. Jesus represents to me the best horse I’ve trained,” said D’Angelo, who was the leading trainer in Venezuela before venturing to South Florida in 2019.
“He gave me the best moments of my life, professionally speaking. When you come to this country. You see all the big horses and big trainers. To have a horse that has the ability to take you there with him, it was amazing.”
Jesus’ Team returned to Gulfstream to capture the Claiming Crown Jewel in his final start of 2020 before making his 2021 debut in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1), in which he again finished second behind Knicks Go. Unfortunately, the D’Angelo trainee seemed to lack the same competitive spirit in Dubai.
“The race was not a good race for him. The horse wasn’t training very good in Dubai,” D’Angelo said. “Sometimes that happens, and you never know.”
After enjoying some rest and relaxation and putting on some weight, Jesus’ Team has produced a series of strong breezes at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach County, in preparation for the City of Dania.
Samy Camacho is scheduled to ride Jesus’ Team for the first time since his second-place finish behind Sole Volante last year.
Patrick Biancone-trained Sole Volante will be seeking his first win in five starts since his decision over Jesus’ Team last year. The son of Karakontie went on to finish off the board in the Belmont and Derby before a couple of uneventful efforts on the turf. Following a four-month break, he raced evenly to finish fourth in a mile optional claiming allowance on the main track May 22.
Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and Andie Biancone’s gelding had established himself as a Triple Crown prospect early last year when he won the Sam Davis (G3) and finished second in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2)
Luca Panici has the return mount on Sole Volante, who will be equipped with blinkers for the first time.
Harold Queen’s Noble Drama, a multiple stakes winner and fan favorite at Gulfstream; Rodney Lundock’s Pro Quality, who was just a neck behind Noble Drama; Lawson Racing Stables’ I’m a G Six, an impressive winner of a mile optional claiming allowance last time out; Willow Lane Stable Inc.’s Highestdistinction, who is slated to make his 2021 debut Sunday after winning his last two starts of 2020; and IAB Stables and Walter Fralick’s Quenane, a veteran campaigner with 14 career wins; round out the field.
Gonzalez to Miss 6 to 8 Weeks with Fracture
Jockey Edwin Gonzalez, third in the current rider standings at Gulfstream Park, will miss 6-to-8 weeks with a hairline fracture in his right leg.
Gonzalez, who suffered the injury in the ninth race July 3, will not need surgery, according to agent Kevin Meyocks.
Spending his first Spring/Summer meet at Gulfstream, Gonzalez had been named to ride Miles Ahead July 3 in the $200,000 Smile Sprint (G3). Gonzalez was taken to the hospital and missed the mount on Miles Ahead, who won with Victor Espinoza aboard.
Gonzalez has 1,506 career wins since coming to the U.S. from his native Puerto Rico in 2013. A multiple graded-stakes winner in Puerto Rico, Gonzalez guided Ghost Hunter for his first graded-stakes success in the 2017 Arlington Handicap (G3).
Along with the $75,000 Carry Back Stakes Saturday, Gulfstream’s 13-race program will have a guaranteed pool in the Rainbow 6 of $350,000.
The Rainbow 6 will include the seven furlong Carry Back and three races scheduled on the turf.
The Rainbow 6 carryover jackpot is paid out when there is a single unique ticket sold with all six winners. On days when there is no unique ticket, 70 percent of that day’s pool goes back to those bettors holding tickets with the most winners, while 30 percent is carried over to the jackpot pool.