Gunnevera Vs Leitone at Gulfstream Park
Salomon Del Valle’s Gunnevera is set for a return to action Friday at Gulfstream Park, where he is scheduled to face four rivals, including Chilean Derby champion Leitone.
A multiple graded-stakes winner, Gunnevera hasn’t raced since exiting an eighth-place finish in the $10 million Dubai World Cup (G1) with a nasty hoof injury. The Kentucky-bred 4-year-old was freshened in Ocala for two months to give the hoof time to heal before returning to Sano’s Gulfstream Park West stable.
In preparation for his return to action, the son of Dialed In has had a series of seven workouts at Gulfstream Park West, including a bullet five-furlong breeze in a minute Saturday morning.
“My horse is doing very good,” trainer Antonio Sano said. “After this race, I want to run in the Woodward.”
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The Woodward (G1) at Saratoga will be run Sept. 1. The ultimate goal, Sano said, is the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs Nov. 3.
A year ago, Gunnevera made a return from a layoff to capture the 1 1/16-mile Tangelo Stakes at Gulfstream in preparation for a start in the Travers (G1), in which he finished second behind West Coast and ahead of Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Always Dreaming, Preakness (G1) victor Cloud Computing and Belmont Stakes (G1) champion Tapwrit.
Gunnevera won the 2016 Saratoga Special (G2) at the Upstate New York track. He also won the $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot (G3) to cap his juvenile season before going on to win the $400,000 Fountain of Youth (G2) the following year.
Gunnevera, who capped his 3-year-old season with a fifth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Del Mar, finished third in the $16 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) at Gulfstream Jn. 27 before venturing to Dubai.
Edgard Zayas has the mount for Friday’s return, a 1 1/16-mile optional claiming allowance carded as Race 4.
Leitone, a multiple Grade 1 winner in Chile who was purchased privately by Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and R. A. Hill Stable following his triumph in the El Derby (G1) at Valparaiso Feb. 4, is scheduled to clash with Gunnevera while making his U.S. debut. The 4-year-old Chilean-bred son of Dunkirk hasn’t been worse than third in eight starts. Trainer Kathy Ritvo named Luca Panici to ride.
Asterisk, an impressive five-length winner of a 1 1/16-mile optional claiming allowance last time out, Unbridled Holiday, and Millionaire Runner round out the field.