GULFSTREAM Old pros bring class to optional claimer
HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – A couple of horses with plenty of Grade 1 experience trying to get back to their best form – Breaking Lucky and Imperative – will help liven up Friday’s $48,000 main event at Gulfstream Park, a secondlevel allowance and optionalclaiming race at a mile.
Breaking Lucky was third in both the Grade 1 Stephen Foster at Churchill and the Grade 1 Whitney at Saratoga in 2017 and second in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap in 2016 when trained by Reade Baker. On Friday, he will make his third start since being transferred to trainer George Weaver’s barn for the 2018 campaign.
Breaking Lucky finished a solid third behind Petrov returning from an 11-month layoff in a seven-furlong optional claimer in August at Saratoga, and eighth after showing brief speed in the Grade 3 Lukas Classic in September at Churchill Downs, won by Mind Your Biscuits.
“He’s a nice, classy horse who ran well for us off the bench at Saratoga then just didn’t show up in the Churchill race,” said Weaver. “It kind of left us scratching our heads and is one of those things we really don’t have an answer for. He’s doing fine now, and it’s time to lead him over there. . . . If he runs his best, he should have a good chance to win.”
Weaver wasn’t happy that Breaking Lucky drew the rail in the field of 11 3-year-olds and up. Luis Saez will ride.
“Obviously I’d much rather he’d be drawn outside, although he showed some speed in the seven-eighths race at Saratoga,” said Weaver. “He’s got Luis aboard and he’s a class horse who’ll just have to deal with the post. What he did at Churchill Downs was probably the worst performance of his career, and he is getting a little older and a little longer in the tooth. But this is the softest spot he’s been in for a while, and we’re still hoping he’ll be able to get back to where he was earlier in his career.”
Imperative is winless in five starts since capturing the Grade 2 Charles Town Classic in April 2017. Imperative turned in dull efforts in both the Grade 1 Woodward at Saratoga and Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland earlier this season before rebounding to finish third in an optional claimer at Laurel four weeks ago.
An 8-year-old gelding by Bernardini, Imperative has won nearly $3 million.
Breaking Lucky and Imperative aren’t the only members of this lineup with Grade 1 experience. Shagaf, fifth in the 2016 Wood Memorial before being pulled up later that spring in the Kentucky Derby, returns for trainer Chad Brown off a 19 ½-month absence. He will be reunited on Friday with jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., who guided the Shadwell homebred to three consecutive victories to open his career, including in the Grade 3 Gotham.
The field also features recent winners Mucho Prospect, Mr Atila, and Biblical, along with restricted stakes winner Third Day and speedy Belle Tapisserie.
Kukulkan 3-5 for Clasico
Post positions were drawn Wednesday for Saturday’s 11-race all-stakes program, which will begin with six 2-year-old stakes and conclude with the five-race Clasico Internacional del Caribe program, topped by the $300,000 Clasico del Caribe. First post on Saturday is 11:50 a.m. Eastern.
The Clasico del Caribe – or Caribbean Classic – is led by the Mexican sensation Kukulkan, who has won all 13 career starts. Kukulkan drew post 3 in a field of 10 3-year-olds representing four Latin American countries – Mexico, Panama, Venezuela, and Puerto Rico. Kukulkan was established as the 3-5 favorite for the 1 1/8-mile Classic by morningline maker Jay Stone.
“He’s trained well, adapted well, was very professional with his schooling,” said Kukulkan’s trainer, Fausto Gutierrez, who’ll also send out Kandinsky in the Classic. “He’s ready.”
Gutierrez, who won the Caribbean Classic here a year ago with the filly Jala Jala, said he was pleased with the post position draw for Kukulkan, who’ll be ridden for the first time by Irad Ortiz Jr.
“I understand the inside post positions are better here,” said Gutierrez. “So for me, it’s good for obvious reasons.”
From the rail out, with riders, the Caribbean Classic field will include My Rating Mate (Venezuela), Leonel Reyes; Dario Ruth (Panama), John Velazquez; Kukulkan; El Salsero (Puerto Rico), Edwin Castro; Sol De Orion (Panama), Jose Lezcano; Senor Ben Hur (Panama), Jose Ortiz; Kandinsky (Mexico), Javier Castellano; Apistos (Venezuela), Luis Saez; Literario (Mexico), Manuel Franco; and Bukowski (Venezuela), Emisael Jaramillo.
Ortiz, with three victories, and Velasquez with two, combined to win all five stakes on last year’s Clasico Internacional del Caribe card here. It was the first time the event had been held outside of Latin America and the Caribbean since it began in 1966.
Breaking Lucky has run competitively in Grade 1 stakes, and will try to get back to that form in Friday’s feature.