Thursday, June 22, 2023
HALLANDALE BEACH - Mattingly, who finished a promising second behind No Nay Mets in the $100,000 Royal Palm Juvenile Stakes on May 13, will make his anxiously awaited return to action Saturday at Gulfstream Park.
The Joe Orseno-trained son of Bucchero has been installed at 4-5 in the morning line in Race 3, a $65,000 maiden special weight race for 2-year-olds at 5 ½ furlongs on Tapeta.
“It was testing my patience to wait for this race, but this was my plan. I could have run in a Florida-bred race [on dirt], but I decided to stick to my guns and wait for the race that I picked out,” Orseno said. “He’s ready. I can’t wait to run him.”
Mattingly put pressure on the front-running No Nay Mets into the stretch before settling for second while making his debut in the Royal Palm Juvenile, a five-furlong turf stakes that offered the winner a berth in one of six races at the June 20-24 Royal Ascot meet.
“The bottom line is that he was nowhere near ready, but we were trying to get that ‘win-and-you’re-in’ at Royal Ascot. I figured the rest of the horses were as ready as him. In the perfect world, I wasn’t able to do half the things I normally do before a horse’s first start,” Orseno said. “He overcame all of it. I think if he was fitter that day, he might have won the race.”
No Nay Mets, who won the Royal Ascot qualifying race, was sold Monday for more than $1 million at the Goff’s London sale before finishing off the board in Thursday’s Gr. II Norfolk at Ascot Racecourse.
Mattingly will be making his debut on Gulfstream’s all-weather surface while facing six rivals.
“I have quite a few by that sire, Bucchero, and they seem to be Tapeta/turf specialists,” Orseno said. “I’m not saying they can’t run on dirt, but they handle the Tapeta well. I’m expecting a big effort from him.”
Edgar Perez has the return mount aboard Mattingly, who was purchased for $75,000 at the OBS March sale for 2-year-olds in training.
“I bought him in Ocala. When I saw him and watched his under-tack video, when I went and looked at him and saw how well-balanced he was and his confirmation, everything about him just struck me,” Orseno said. “I wasn’t supposed to go as high as I did. I had to have him. Everybody was OK with that.”
Defending Champion Willy Boi Tops G3 Smile Sprint Nominations
Lea Farms’s Willy Boi tops a list of 11 nominations for the $100,000, Gr. III Smile Sprint, which the Jorge Delgado-trained gelding captured by a length last year.
The July 1 Smile, a six-furlong dash for 3-year-olds and up, headlines Gulfstream’s Summit of Speed Weekend, which will also include the $75,000 Bob Umphrey Sprint on July 2.
Willy Boi, a Gr. 1 stakes-placed son of Uncaptured, is still looking for his first victory this season. The Florida-bred 5-year-old is accompanied on the Smile nominations list by Lea Farms' Lightening Larry, a 4-year-old son of Uncaptured also trained by Delgado.
Stud Vendeval Inc. and trainer Amador Sanchez’s Todo Fino, who has won his last five starts in Chile and the U.S., is also prominent among the Smile nominees. The Chilean-bred 6-year-old son of Verrazano has won 11 of 16 career starts, including a pair of allowance victories at Del Mar and Santa Anita last season in his two most recent races.
Keith Johnston’s Big and Classy is nominated to make his stakes debut in the Smile after winning six races in a row. The Bobby DiBona-trained 4-year-old gelding has advanced from the $20,000 claiming ranks to dominate optional claiming allowance company in recent starts.
Zenith Racing’s Long Range Toddy, a Gr. 2-winning millionaire recently transferred to trainer Victor Barboza Jr., is also a Smile nominee.
The Bob Umphrey Sprint, a 5 ½-furlong dash on Tapeta, drew 13 nominations.
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