Gulfstream Park Saturday Preview
Grade 1 winner Bigger Picture, 2017 runner-up All Included and South American Group 1 winners Hi Happy and Kurilov are among 23 horses nominated to the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Turf, the lone Grade 1 grass stakes of the 2017-2018 Championship Meet.
The 31st running of the Gulfstream Park Turf for 4-year-olds and up shares the spotlight with the 71st renewal of the $150,000 Suwannee River (G3) for fillies and mares 4 and older Saturday, Feb. 10. Both races are contested at 1 1/8 miles.
Three Diamonds Farm’s Bigger Picture won the United Nations (G1) last summer at Monmouth Park for trainer Mike Maker and is coming off his second straight victory in the John B. Connally (G3) Jan. 28 at Sam Houston. He was beaten just over a length combined in three graded stakes last year, including the Sword Dancer (G1) at Saratoga.
All Included, trained by Gulfstream’s 14-time defending champion Todd Pletcher, has only made three starts since his last victory in the Appleton (G3) in April 2017 at Gulfstream. The 7-year-old son of Include has run twice during the current Championship Meet, finishing fifth in the Tropical Turf (G3) and third by two lengths in the Ft. Lauderdale (G2), the latter Jan. 13.
Pletcher-trained stablemate Hi Happy had a 6-0 record in his native Argentina including four Group 1 victories before coming to the U.S. in the fall of 2016. Winless in four North American starts, he has not run since finishing third by a neck in the Tokyo City (G3) last April at Santa Anita.
Chilean-bred Kurilov won a Group 1 stakes in his final start at home last May, and is seeking his first victory in the U.S. He raced twice last fall and winter in New York, beaten a neck while third in the Queens County Dec. 23 at Aqueduct last out.
Graded-stakes winners Blacktype; Heart to Heart, four-for-six lifetime at Gulfstream; Oscar Nominated, Shining Copper, Granny’s Kitten, March and Money Multiplier are also nominated.
Elysea’s World, the 2017 runner-up, joins Grade 1 winner Dream Dancing, Uruguayan Group 1 winner Giulia and Canadian classic winner Holy Helena among 28 horses nominated to the Suwannee River. Elysea’s World has gone winless in her last nine starts, seven of them graded stakes, capped by the Robert J. Frankel (G3) Dec. 30 at Santa Anita.
Dream Dancing was a nose winner of the Del Mar Oaks (G1) last summer, and opened her 4-year-old season finishing second as the favorite in the Marshua’s River (G3) Jan. 13 at Gulfstream behind Ultra Brat, who is also nominated to the Suwannee River.
Holy Helena has run first or second in six career starts, all last year, topped by her 3 ½-length triumph in the Queen’s Plate at Woodbine. Most recently she was second in the 1 1/8-mile Ontario Derby (G3) last October, also over Woodbine’s synthetic surface.
Also prominent among Suwannee River nominees are graded winners Kitten’s Roar, Madam Dancealot and Midnight Crossing; Dream Awhile, winner of the Tropical Park Oaks Dec. 30 at Gulfstream; and stakes winners I’m Betty G, Insta Erma, Kathy’s Song, King’s Ghost and Susie Bee.
Curlin’s Approval Expected to Defend Title in Feb. 19 Royal Delta (G2)
Multiple graded-stakes winner Curlin’s Approval exited her narrow loss in the Hurricane Bertie (G3) Jan. 27 in good order, and breeder, co-owner and trainer Happy Alter is pointing the 5-year-old mare to the $200,000 Royal Delta (G2) Feb. 19.
“She’s doing fine. I usually walk horses four days after a race, and when I went to walk her the fourth day she was feeling so good that I had to jog her,” Alter said. “I think that even if she had won the race, there’s more to her. I look to her to get back to the winner’s circle shortly.”
Curlin’s Approval won the 2017 Royal Delta when it was run at 1 1/16 mile; this year’s edition was shortened to one mile. All seven of her career wins have come at Gulfstream Park, including wins in the 2017 Hurricane Bertie (G3) and Princess Rooney (G2).
“When there’s 12 horses in the field and you finish second and get beat right at the wire, there’s no shame in that,” Alter said. “She’s consistent, she holds her weight, she looks good. These races she did well in last year and it’s right here in our backyard so that’s the best place to go.”
G1 Winner Sadler’s Joy Targeting Return in Mac Diarmida (G2) March 3
Woodslane Farm’s homebred Grade 1 winner Sadler’s Joy continues to work forwardly toward his scheduled 5-year-old debut in the $200,000 Mac Diarmida (G2) March 3.
The chestnut son of prominent sire Kitten’s Joy breezed three times last month for trainer Tom Albertrani at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach County.
“He’s doing really well. We gave him a little time off since the Breeders’ Cup and took our time with him and gave him a little break before getting him back to work again. He looks well. He’s coming up to his next race doing very well,” Albertrani said. “We have another month to go. We’ve kind of brought him along at the same pace we did last year. Overall, the horse is just doing great.”
Sadler’s Joy ran twice at Gulfstream to open his 2017 campaign, finishing second in the W.L. McKnight (G2) in his stakes debut, and returning to capture the 1 ½-mile Pan American (G2) April 1.
He went on to finish third in the Man o’ War (G1), Manhattan (G1) and Bowling Green (G2) before his breakthrough victory in the Sword Dancer (G1) at Saratoga. Sadler’s Joy ended the year running fourth in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1).
“He made that transition from 3 to 4 and had a really good year last year and we’re hoping that as a 5-year-old now he has his best season coming ahead of him,” Albertrani said. “We talked about perhaps running once or twice down here, if he doesn’t run in the Mac Diarmida then maybe the Pan American. We really want to focus looking ahead, something like the Man o’War and the Manhattan after that.
“In the near future those would be two main races we’d target. In the summer we’ll look at the same kind of races he had last year,” he added. “We’ve got some options later on but right in the immediate future we’re looking at another Manhattan try. He ran well in it last year. We’re basically looking at the same kind of program leading up to the Breeders’ Cup.”