Michael Yates has steadily built a reputation as a most astute trainer of 2-year-olds in South Florida, and the Ocala breeder/owner/trainer will put that reputation on the line Saturday at Gulfstream Park West, where he’s scheduled to saddle strong contenders in the $60,000 Juvenile Sprint and the $60,000 Juvenile Fillies Sprint.
The two 6 ½-furlong races for Florida-bred 2-year-olds will be supporting features on a nine-race program that will be highlighted by the $60,000 Millions Classic Preview, the $60,000 Millions Distaff Preview and the $60,000 Millions Sprint Preview.
Yates is slated to saddle Stonehedge LLC’s Poppy’s Pride for the Juvenile Sprint and Shadowbrook Farm Inc.’s Briella for the Juvenile Fillies Sprint.
“My whole life I’ve messed with young horses, so I’m very in tune with 2-year-olds because it’s something I’ve done my whole life. I just enjoy it a lot,” Yates said. “They’re all different. They’re like kids; you just have to treat them all different. Two-year-olds run truer to their works than older horses do.”
After finishing second and third, respectively, in his first two starts, Poppy’s Pride graduated at Gulfstream Aug. 27 with a six-length victory over next-out winner Lost a Legend in a five-furlong maiden special weight race for Florida-breds. The gelded son of Khozan came right back to win the off-the-turf Armed Forces against open company by 1 ¾ lengths.
“He is a very straightforward horse. Prior to his first start he was showing talent to us. His gate works were pretty impressive. He’s run how he trained. He’s gotten better every time we’ve run him,” Yates said. “We’ve been able to space his races since he broke his maiden. He’s moving forward. I expect that he’ll run well.
Jesus Rios, who has been aboard for all of Poppy’s Pride’s races, has the return mount.
Briella debuted May 7 at Gulfstream with a second-place finish in a 4 ½-furlong maiden special weight race won by Princess Secret, who went on to win the $200,000 Susan’s Girl and $400,000 My Dear Girl divisions of the Florida Sire Stakes series. She graduated with a front-running victory while coming off a four-month layoff, holding on by a nose. Yates’ homebred filly came right back to win a first-level optional claiming allowance Oct. 22, employing the same tactics and demonstrating the same grit to win by a neck.
“She had shin issues after her first start. We gave her some time and brought her back and she’s been steadily improving,” Yates said. “The fractions were pretty stiff in her last start and she made a nice move and opened up late and dug in late. I thought it was a pretty nice race for her.”
Briella, a full sister to 2018 FSS Dr. Fager winner Cajun Firecracker, is a daughter of Cajun Breeze, a hard-nosed campaigner who Yates trained and wisely decided was worthy of standing at stud.
Miguel Vazquez has the return all aboard Briella.
Poppy’s Pride is scheduled to meet seven rivals in the Juvenile Sprint.
Bell Racing LLC’s Real Talk will concede experience to Poppy’s Pride and others Saturday, entering the Juvenile Sprint off a debut victory at Gulfstream Park Sept. 6. Yet, the son of Gemologist demonstrated considerable professionalism while overcoming traffic and drawing away to a six-length victory at the 6 ½-furlong distance of the Juvenile Sprint.
“I think he’s a nice horse. I’ll be interested in seeing him go further when it’s available,” trainer Ralph Nicks said. “He’s only had the one race. He lacks some experience but I think he’s a nice horse.”
Emisael Jaramillo has the return call on Real Talk.
Arindel’s Gatsby has a solid foundation heading into the Juvenile Sprint, having competed in four straight stakes races since winning at first asking at Gulfstream Park April 17. In that 4 ½-furlong debut, the homebred son of Brethren pressed the pace before wearing down pacesetter Golden Pal and scoring by three-quarters of a length. Golden Pal went on to establish himself as a world class sprinter on turf, finishing second in the Norfolk (G2) at Royal Ascot and winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2) at Keeneland.
Gatsby was outrun in the Bashford Manor (G3) at Keeneland two months later but rebounded to finish second in the $100,000 Florida Sire Stakes Dr. Fager Division at six furlongs. He finished off the board in the $200,000 FSS Affirmed at seven furlongs after setting a pressured pace but offered an improved effort in the $400,000 FSS In Reality at 1 1/16 miles, holding on to fourth after attending the early pace.
Cristian Torres has the mount aboard Gatsby.
J S Stables LLC and Kathleen O’Connell’s The Distractor, WSB Investments Inc.’s C.P.A. Genius, Patricia Generazio’s Tiz Handsome, and Just For Fun Stable Inc.’s Advance Cash round out the Juvenile Sprint field.
Briella will clash with five other Florida-bred fillies in the Juvenile Fillies Sprint.
Shea D Boys Stable’s Shea D Summer enters the Juvenile Fillies Sprint off a sharp front-running victory in her Oct. 7 debut at Gulfstream Park West. The daughter of Summer Front pressed the early pace before edging away to a length victory in a six-furlong maiden special weight race in 1:10.41.
“They filly ran 1:10 first time out and she did it so well, straight as an arrow. I was very impressed by that,” David said. “I’m really glad I was able to get that win for the connections because she was purchased at the OBS sale for I think $35,000 and as soon as she came off the van I liked the type of body she had. The perfect type of body I think for a racehorse is kind of medium-sized, stocky, not too small, not too big and that’s her. She’s a great mover and she trains well, and she’s got the right mentality.”
Emisael Jaramillo, who was aboard for Shea D Summer’s debut score, has the return mount.
Screen Door Stables LLC’s Sky Proposal, a two-time winner in four starts at Monmouth Park and Pimlico, is scheduled to make her South Florida debut in the Juvenile Fillies Sprint. The Kelly Breen-trained filly graduated in her second start Aug. 15 at Monmouth before encountering trouble at the start of an off-the-board finish in the Sorority Stakes three weeks later. The daughter of Liam’s Map rebounded to capture an entry-level optional claiming allowance at Pimlico with an off-the-pace stretch drive.
Paco Lopez, who was aboard Sky Proposal for her maiden score, has the call.
Leuf Racing Stable LLC and Sano Racing Stable LLC’s Royal Habibi, Saira Rodas Flores’ Speedy Fire and J D Farms’ Special Princess round out the Juvenile Fillies Sprint field.