Keen Ice expected for Donn
HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Keen Ice and Itsaknockout are the biggest names Gulfstream Park racing officials are expecting for the Grade 1 Donn Handicap, which is one of six stakes to be run here next Saturday, Feb. 6.
Keen Ice, the only horse to defeat American Pharoah last year, was scheduled to have his final pre-race breeze this weekend at Gulfstream in preparing for the $500,000 Donn.
“He’s done really well with the little downtime we gave him,” said Dale Romans, trainer of Keen Ice, who upset American Pharoah in the Travers Stakes in August. “We’re hoping this is the first step toward a huge year. We really think he could be the best older horse in the country in 2016.”
Itsaknockout is one of as many as four horses that trainer Todd Pletcher could send postward in the 1 1/8-mile Donn, with the others being Madefromlucky, Mshawish, and Tommy Macho. Itsaknockout recently returned from an eight-month layoff with a dominating optional-claiming victory.
“We’re really happy with the way he’s come back,” said Jack Wolf, whose Starlight Racing owns Itsaknockout.
Other Donn prospects include Financial Modeling, Mexikoma, Page McKenney, and possibly Closing Bell.
Weight assignments were to be released Saturday, with entries drawn Wednesday.
Plan B for The Pizza Man
The Donn undercard got a real plum when trainer Roger Brueggemann said Friday that The Pizza Man will be shipping in for the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap.
A 2015 Eclipse Award finalist for older turf horse, The Pizza Man had been intended for the San Marcos at Santa Anita, also run Saturday, but suitable travel arrangements could not
be made, said Brueggemann. Instead, the 7-year-old Illinois-bred gelding will be vanned here from his winter headquarters at Fair Grounds in New Orleans.
The Pizza Man, an earner of nearly $1.9 million for ownerbreeder Midwest Thoroughbreds, figures to be favored in the $350,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap, a 1 1/8-mile race expected to get another seven or eight older horses.
The other four stakes here Saturday are the Grade 3, $150,000 Suwannee River; the Grade 3, $100,000 Fred Hooper; the $75,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint; and the $75,000 Ladies Turf Sprint.
General a Rod finds his form
General a Rod looked like the General a Rod of old when he splashed to an easy 7 1/2-length victory over Midnight Cello Thursday at 1 1/16 miles under optional-claiming conditions.
General a Rod was among the leading 3-year-old prospects on the grounds here two winters ago, winning the Gulfstream Park Derby before finishing second in the Fountain of Youth and third in the Florida Derby. He participated in all three legs of the Triple Crown that season, with his best effort a fourthplace finish in the Preakness.
But injuries slowed his career. Thursday marked just General a Rod’s sixth start since the Belmont and was his first victory since he cruised to a triumph in the Challenger Stakes last March at Tampa Bay. On Thursday, over a sloppy track, General a Rod missed the track record for 1 1/16 miles by just 0.26 seconds while matching his career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 104.
“It seems like he’s getting back to his old form,” said John Velazquez, who has been aboard General a Rod in his last five starts.
Don Lucarelli, the co-managing partner for Starlight Stable along with Jack Wolf, said the original plan was to put General a Rod back on the grass after his sixth-place finish behind stablemate Itsaknockout here last month. But General a Rod had been training so well on dirt that trainer Todd Pletcher decided to keep him on that surface, Lucarelli said.
General a Rod tried turf for the only time last spring, finishing 11th in the Grade 1 Manhattan.
Wolf and Lucarelli said they’d leave the decision up to Pletcher where to run General a Rod next, but hoped they might receive an invitation to the Dubai World Cup – to at least have that option.
◗ Gulfstream is running a 13-race card next Sunday – Super Bowl Sunday. The card starts at noon Eastern and ends shortly before 6 p.m. The Super Bowl kicks off at about 6:30.
“We’re inviting fans to stick around and watch the game right here,” said racing secretary P.J. Campo.
◗ About 25 3-year-olds from this area competed last week in four stakes at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales, including maybe a half-dozen that might have been competitive on the Holy Bull card here Saturday. No more than seven horses were entered in four of the five stakes here on Saturday.
Travers winner Keen Ice is expected for the Donn Handicap next Saturday. The Donn is among six stakes on the card.