Gulfstream Park: Florida Derby (G1) an Important Indicator for Kentucky Derby
Courtlandt Farms’ Grade 3-winning homebred Strike Power put an exclamation point on his final major preparation for the $1 million Florida Derby (G1) March 31 with a bullet half-mile breeze over Gulfstream Park’s main track Friday morning.
Working in company with regular exercise rider Juan Oyola up, Strike Power was clocked in 47.87 seconds, the fastest of 27 horses at the distance. His workmate, 3-year-old grass maiden Mathematician, ranked ninth with a time of 48.67.
“It was pretty much what we were looking for. The main thing was, I didn’t really even care if he was in company today I just kind of wanted to make sure he started off on the inside and, because he’s such a horse that can turn on and off, I wanted to make sure he knew he was breezing,” trainer Mark Hennig said. “I wanted a little crisper breeze. I told the rider to go in 47 and 4 and that’s what he did so I was happy with that.”
Strike Power Video: click here to watch.
Friday was the second work for Strike Power since suffering his first career loss when second to Florida Derby-bound Promises Fulfilled in the 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth (G2) March 3, his first try around two turns.
Previously, the chestnut son of champion sprinter Speightstown was a front-running winner of his first two starts capped by a 2 ¾-length stroll in the seven-furlong Swale (G3) Feb. 3. All three of his races have come at Gulfstream, including an eight-length debut romp Dec. 23.
“I’ve worked him in company. I’ve worked him with horses and behind horses,” Hennig said. “The main thing today was I just wanted that horse to be with him for the first part of the work to make sure that he was doing enough the first part of the work. I could see going to the pole that he was plenty sharp enough.
“We’re good. All of our preparations have kind of gone as planned. We’ve just got to hope our preparations are right,” he added. “The horse is doing well and seemed to come out of it well and cooled out well. If everything goes good, I’m happy with where we’re at.”
Hennig said he was not overly concerned with post position heading into the 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby, feeling Strike Power will be better prepared for having a two-turn race under his belt. Jockey Luis Saez gave up a mount on Gunnevera in the $10 million Dubai World Cup (G1) to stay aboard Strike Power.
“I’m not that nervous about it. I think he’ll break a lot sharper this time,” Hennig said. “I think, and Luis said this, too, that he was a little distracted by the crowd last time. It was kind of new to him and he was looking around a lot. I think that he didn’t break as sharp as usual, but I would anticipate he will break a little sharper this time so we’ll see what happens.”
Jockey Zayas Gets Acquainted with Tip Sheet in Friday Work
Arindel’s stakes-placed homebred Tip Sheet had an easy half-mile work in 49.90 seconds Friday morning at Gulfstream, the Brethren colt’s final tune-up for the Florida Derby.
Jockey Edgard Zayas was aboard for the breeze and will ride Tip Sheet for the first time in the Florida Derby. A distant sixth following a wide trip in the Holy Bull (G2) Feb. 3, Tip Sheet encountered late trouble when third in a 1 1/16-mile optional claiming allowance March 4.
Tip Sheet Video: click here to watch.
“It was what I was expecting. He’s not a big horse. He just does it. You’d have to ask him all the way to get a quick work. He just finishes like he runs. It was all right. That’s all he needs,” trainer Stanley Gold said. “We just want to keep him fit. I know he’s going to run down the lane. We’ve just got to be close enough to get there, that’s all.
“Last time was kind of a disaster where he almost ran into a horse. That’s why I had Edgard breeze the horse so he could see how the horse runs. When you hit the accelerator, you want to know what kind of pickup you’ve got,” he added. “He thought he worked good. He liked the way he finished. The quarter pole to the wire is where you win them. It’s all timing and pace and that’s the rider. It’s all up to him.”
Tip Sheet ran second by 1 ½ lengths to Soutache in the Florida Sire In Reality Stakes Sept. 30 and followed up with a starter optional claiming win over a sloppy, sealed track at Gulfstream Park West. He graduated in a maiden claiming event last summer, and opened his sophomore campaign running third to Noble Indy and Mississippi Jan. 11.
“The Florida Derby was always our hope, even he was overachieving somewhat, because of his style of running,” Gold said. “Even though we started out cheap with him, he’s just seemed to keep getting better and he’s started putting some weight on. He’s not a real big horse, but he’s stout and he’s got a good attitude. He just seems to be one of those that just digs in and gives it to you.
“We’re jumping right into the Florida Derby because of the time,” he added. “Yeah, he ran for a tag and, yeah, he ran in an a-other-than, and the Holy Bull wasn’t the best. But, he’s going to run, he’s going to finish, so we’ll see what happens.”
Gold drew a comparison between Tip Sheet and Fellowship, who he trained to third-place finishes in the Holy Bull, Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby in 2016. Now with trainer Ken Decker, the Jacks or Better Farm color bearer ran second in the General George (G3) Feb. 17 at Laurel Park.
“With Fellowship, it was the same thing. He was a horse that didn’t really impress you to look at but the last three-eighths of a mile he got in gear and he was coming, and anytime they’re running late you’ve got to consider them,” Gold said. “We were catching Soutache in the last stallion stakes, and they weren’t expecting us to be anywhere near. Tyler looked like he thought he had an easy go of it and when he realized it wasn’t an easy go of it he was riding and we were coming. Is he that kind of horse? We’ll see.”
Catholic Boy Back on Familiar Ground at Gulfstream Park
Catholic Boy, who launched his career with a debut victory at Gulfstream Park last July, is back on familiar ground at the Hallandale Beach racetrack to prepare for a scheduled start in the Florida Derby.
The Jonathan Thomas-trained colt, who produced an eye-opening two-length romp in a 7 ½-furlong maiden race on turf, visited Gulfstream’s main track for a 1 1/8-mile gallop Friday morning after arriving from Bridlewood Farm Thursday afternoon.
“He travelled in really well. Normally, he needs a day or two to scope out a place, but he summered here so he settled right in, ate up nicely, and I thought he trained well this morning. He seemed happy,” Thomas said.
Pleased with the son of More Than Ready’s energy level Friday morning, Thomas said the multiple graded-stakes winner will likely have his final workout for the Florida Derby Sunday morning.
After winning at first asking, Catholic Boy went on to capture the With Anticipation (G3) at Saratoga and finish fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) at Del Mar. He concluded his 2-year-old campaign while winning his dirt debut in the 1 1/8-mile Remsen (G2) by 4 ¾ lengths at Aqueduct. The Kentucky-bred colt finished second, a half-length behind Flameaway, while making his 2018 debut in the Sam Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs Feb. 10.
Thomas is hopeful that Robert LaPenta and Madaket Stables’ colt will take to Gulfstream’s dirt track as well as he took to the turf course last summer.
“Obviously, we’re going to learn a lot when we breeze him Sunday, but he has traditionally trained well over this racetrack,” Thomas said.
Irad Ortiz Jr. is slated to ride Catholic Boy for the first time in the Florida Derby.