Monday, February 26, 2024
Mandatory payout set for Sunday . . .
    HALLANDALE BEACH - The 20-cent Rainbow 6 will have an estimate pool of $700,000 when racing resumes Wednesday at Gulfstream Park with a 1:10 p.m. first race post time.

    A mandatory payout of the Rainbow 6 pool has been scheduled for Sunday. The week will also feature Saturday’s 78th running of the 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth, Gulfstream’s next step for 3-year-olds on the road to the $1 million Florida Derby on March 30. The 14-race Saturday program features nine stakes, eight graded, worth $1.85 million in purses.

    Wednesday’s sequence will begin with Race 3, a maiden claiming event for fillies and mares at a mile and 70 yards on Tapeta. The day’s featured seventh race will be a $91,000 allowance optional claiming event at 1 ½ miles on the turf for 4-year-olds and up. Value Engineering, winner of last winter’s Gr. II Mac Diarmida are among the 10 entered.
Monday, February 26, 2024
3yo Palace Zip wins in first start . . .

    HALLANDALE BEACH - Bridlewood Farm homebred Palace Zip, a first-time starter by Palace Malice, came with a steady run down the center of the track to surge past Reina Mar and Mi Amore and give trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. his 1,000th career win in Sunday’s finale at Gulfstream Park.

  Ridden by Edgard Zayas and sent off the 5-2 favorite in a field of eight, Palace Zip ($7) covered 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather Tapeta in 1:43.58 to capture the maiden claimer for 3-year-old fillies. It was Joseph’s lone starter on Sunday’s program.

    “It’s amazing,” Joseph said after being recognized and posing for photos in a winner’s circle ceremony. “I remember the first one and here we are at 1,000. The first probably 200 took five or six years and it was a struggle, and the last 800 have come pretty quickly. We’ve gotten the opportunities from the owners and that’s what you need. Without the owners, you can’t do it. There’s no trainer without horses, and the owners produce the horses.”

    A native of Barbados, the 37-year-old Joseph has won eight consecutive titles at Gulfstream Park since finishing second during the 2020-2021 Championship Meet. He has led the nation’s premiere winter gathering each of the past two years, dethroning 18-time winner and Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher.

    Joseph is on track for a third straight Championship Meet title, leading the 2023-2024 stand in wins (47), starters (223) and purses earned ($2.37 million). Among his victories are six stakes-winners, including O’Connor in the Gr. III Harlan’s Holiday, R Harper Rose in the Gr. III Forward Gal and Honor D Lady in the Gr. III Royal Delta.

    Married with two children, Joseph is a third-generation horseman following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. At the age of 22, he became the youngest trainer to win the Barbados Triple Crown with Areutalkintome in 2009.

    Joseph came to the U.S. two years later and finished seventh with his first starter, Go Zapper, on April 10, 2011 at Tampa Bay Downs. His first win came on June 19, 2011 at Calder Race Course with Artefacto, and he saddled his first stakes- winner, Saraguaro, in the 2015 Foolish Pleasure at Gulfstream Park.

    Math Wizard, a horse he claimed for $25,000, put Joseph on the national stage by winning the 2019, Gr. I  Pennsylvania Derby, the trainer’s first graded stakes victory. Joseph has 33 career graded triumphs including Gr. 1 success with White Abarrio in the 2022 Florida Derby, Mischevious Alex in the Carter Handicap and Drain the Clock in the Woody Stephens, both in 2021.

    Joseph set career highs with 201 wins in 2021 and $10.66 million in purse earnings last year. He has trained three millionaires – Skippylongstocking, Math Wizard and White Abarrio – and has ranked in the top 12 nationally in wins and/or purse earnings since 2020.

    Other top horses trained by Joseph include multiple graded-stakes winners O’Connor, Officiating and Tonalist’s Shape, as well as Three Witches, last year’s winner of Gulfstream’s Gr. III Princess Rooney who went on to be third in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint.

    “We’re only as good as what the owners give us. That’s what makes trainers,” Joseph said. “We have to take care of them with the staff, and that’s what makes me. I’m one person that is head of 80 people that make me and make us as a unit. It’s not just me, it’s a credit to the whole staff. It’s a whole crew that makes this success possible and I’m very thankful to be in this position.”

Sunday, February 25, 2024
Leinster is sponsor of both $100,000 Stakes . . .

    (Joe and Helen Barbazon and their Pleasant Acres Stallions were well-represented in various ways at the big day of racing at Tampa Bay Downs yesterday. Leinster, who stands at the farm, had both featured stakes races named after him; Jordi's Dream, third in the $100,000 Leinster Lightning City Stakes is by Pleasant Acres' red-hot stallion, Neolithic; and Extendo, second by a neck in the $100,000 Leinster Turf Dash stakes is by former Pleasant Acres stallion Handsome Mike and was bred by the Barbazons in partnership with Ed Seltzer and Beverly Anderson).

    OLDSMAR - Few sounds you’ll hear are as joyous, and filled with love and gratitude, or as loud as the high-pitched yells coming from trainer Douglas Nunn after his 8-year-old gelding Smithwick’s Spice hung on under jockey Daniel Centeno to win the 21st running of the $100,000 Leinster Turf Dash Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs by a neck from Extendo.

    Nunn trained the winner’s dam, Spicy McHaggis, and his siblings. He has always believed in Smithwick’s Spice, but had doubts about entering him against the quality of competition in the Leinster Turf Dash.

    “I liked him cutting back in distance today (following a good second going 1 1/16-mile earlier this month at Gulfstream Park), but these were not just New Jersey-bred horses,” Nunn said once his state of near-hysteria subsided. “I was all ready to scratch him, but the owner (New Spice Stable’s Robert Matthies) said let’s take a shot.

    “He had never run against the big boys, and I didn’t want to take his heart away. But he showed he can run with the big boys,” added Nunn, who broke Smithwick’s Spice as a yearling.

    In the co-feature on the Turf Sprint Showcase Day card, Play the Music overcame early trouble to win the $100,000 Leinster Lightning City Stakes for older fillies and mares under jockey Antonio Gallardo. 

    Smithwick’s Spice’s time for the 5 furlongs on the grass was :55.98 seconds. Yes I Am Free, the wagering favorite, flattened out in the stretch and finished third, a half-length behind Extendo and ¾-lengths ahead of Thealligatorhunter. Storm the Court, the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner, was a late scratch.

    Smithwick’s Spice paid $14.20 to win. He improved to 10-for-40 lifetime and the winner’s share of $45,000 raised his career earnings to $508,847. His only other stakes victory came in the 2022 Joey P. Handicap at Monmouth Park.

    Once Smithwick’s Spice showed Centeno he wanted the lead, the jockey rolled with the veteran campaigner and was richly rewarded. “He fought the entire way. I’ve ridden him before and he’s always run good for me,” Centeno said. “When I turned for home I saw (Antonio) Gallardo (on Yes I Am Free) outside me and I thought, he’s not going to go by me. My horse likes to fight, and he ran big today.” The victory was the first for Nunn at the meet from 15 starts. 

    “The reason I’m still here doing this is this horse,” Nunn said after rejoicing with his wife, Maria Claire Van Sant. “When this horse retires, I’ll retire. He doesn’t want to retire yet, so I guess I’m going to keep on going.

    “When you hang a bridle on some horses, it’s hard because they don’t always give you what they have. This horse has given everything he has from Day 1,” Nunn added, tears flowing freely.

    In the 21st running of the Leinster Lightning City Stakes, supplemental entry Play the Music launched an impressive stretch rally under Gallardo and rolled to a 2 ½-length victory from the other supplemental entry in the race, Howboutdemapples. Pace-setter Jordi’s Dream, a 50-1 shot, held on well for third. Covenant Lady closed well to be fourth.

    A scary moment occurred earlier in the stretch run when betting favorite Just a Care bumped with Howboutdemapples while trying to angle between rivals, causing Just a Care’s jockey Samy Camacho to lose his balance and fall from his mount. Camacho, the track’s leading jockey, walked back to the jockeys’ room after laying on the turf for about 2-3 minutes and was able to return to ride Sky’s Not Falling in the Leinster Turf Dash.

    Earlier in the race at about the 3/8-mile pole, Just a Care and Camacho came over on Play the Music while seeking position on the turn, forcing Gallardo to check sharply. But he was able to swing Play the Music outside, and from there the 4-year-old Kentucky-bred made quick work of her rivals en route to her fourth victory and first stakes triumph from 10 starts.

    Play the Music is owned by Glassman Racing and trained by Mark Casse. Her time for the 5-furlong distance was :55.98 seconds, .89 seconds off Jean Elizabeth’s 2020 stakes record.

    The 4-year-old Just a Care finished with good energy while riderless and was reported to be in good shape after returning to the backside. But her difficulties didn’t detract from the quality of Play the Music’s victory.

“(Casse’s assistant, Jimmy Miranda) told me this filly was ready, and that’s what she showed,” Gallardo said. “Thank God I could put her in gear again after getting checked. She gave me everything and I was able to get her in the clear and into the race.”

    Play the Music had won her previous race, a 7 ½-furlong turf event on Jan. 27 at Gulfstream Park, but this may have been her best career performance. “Antonio had her tucked inside early, which was perfect,” Miranda said. “Then he was able to swing her outside and get her in the clear to make her run. If you read Chapter 7, that’s what it says to do.”

Thursday, February 22, 2024
Stallion stands at Pleasant Acres . . .

    OLDSMAR - By Saturday afternoon, the waiting will be over for 18 turf sprinters primed to show their best stuff against stakes competition.

    Postponed last week by a rainy weather forecast that lived up to its billing, the $100,000 Leinster Lightning City Stakes for fillies and mares 4-years-old-and-upward and the $100,000 Leinster Turf Dash for horses 4-and-upward will be held on the Tampa Bay Downs turf course.

    Saturday's weather forecast calls for plenty of sunshine, with temperatures reaching the upper 60s.
    Both 5-furlong races have drawn nine horses, with 4-year-old filly Awesome Pic a “main track only” entrant in the Leinster Lightning City, which is scheduled as the seventh race. The Leinster Turf Dash is the ninth race.

    The first of 10 races begins at 12:18 . Saturday's card also includes the third legs of the Tampa Turf Test, as starter handicap event for older horses of both sexes which have started for a claiming price of $16,000 or less in 2023-24. The distance of both Tampa Turf Test races is a mile-and-an-eighth.

    The field for the Leinster Turf Dash is headed by a pair of graded stakes-winners, Yes I Am Free and Storm the Court. Yes I Am Free, an 8-year-old Florida-bred gelding owned by Golden Kernel Racing Stable and trained by Laura Cazares, has earned more than $750,000 in his career, highlighted by victories in the Gr. III Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint Stakes in 2022 and 2023. Antonio Gallardo has been named to ride Yes I Am Free.

    Storm the Court has two lifetime victories from 24 starts, but one came in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in 2019 at Santa Anita. The 7-year-old’s career earnings exceed $1.4-million.

    Owned by David A. Bernsen, Susanna Wilson and Peter Eurton and trained by William E. Morey, Storm the Court has finished second in two Tampa Bay Downs starts, both at the Leinster Turf Dash distance. Pablo Morales is the jockey.

    Another likely contender is Sky’s Not Falling, a hard-knocking 6-year-old gelding owned by R. Larry Johnson and R. D. M. Racing Stable and trained by Michael Trombetta. Samy Camacho has been named to ride. Sky’s Not Falling has won almost $400,000 in his career, highlighted by a victory in the 2022 Maryland Million Turf Sprint Stakes at Laurel.

    The Leinster Lightning City appears to be a wide-open affair. The field includes two stakes-winners: Boo Boo Kitty, owned by Rice Racing and trained by Kevin Rice, and She’s My Warrior, owned by Peter Mattson and Tim Padilla and trained by Padilla.

  Boo Boo Kitty, a 5-year-old Florida-bred mare, will be ridden by Morales. She won the 2022 Satin and Lace Stakes at Presque Isle Downs, but will be making her first start in more than 16 months.

    She’s My Warrior, a 5-year-old owned by Peter Mattson and Tim Padilla and trained by Padilla, is a two-time stakes-winner at Canterbury Park in Minnesota. She will be ridden by Alonso Quinonez.

Thursday, February 22, 2024
National Treasure won $20 million Pegasus . .
    HALLANDALE BEACH - Three of the first four finishers from Gulfstream’s $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational, and a Florida Derby winner, will lead a field of 14 Saturday in the $20 million Saudi Cup.

    Fans can watch and wager on the Saudi Cup at Gulfstream Park Saturday. Post time for the Saudi Cup is 12:40 p.m. Gulfstream will also show the Neom Turf Cup and Red Sea Turf Handicap prior to the Saudi Cup.

    Pegasus winner National Treasure and runner-up Senor Buscador have made the trip for the Saudi Cup along with Hoist the Gold, who finished fourth. Bob Baffert, trainer of National Treasure, has also entered Defunded, second in the 2023 Pegasus World Cup.

    Joining those three is Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) winner White Abarrio, winner of the 2022 Florida Derby, and Japan’s Ushba Tesoro, winner of the 2023 Dubai World Cup (G1) and fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Classi