Shadwell Stable’s 2006 Horse of the Year Invasor shoulders top weight of 123 pounds as the 6-to-5 morning line favorite in his long-awaited return in Saturday’s $500,000 Donn Handicap (gr. I) at Gulfstream Park.
The Donn highlights an outstanding program that includes five other graded stakes events.
Regular rider Fernando Jara rejoins Invasor, who breaks from the rail in the 1 1/8-mile event. The 5-year-old Argentine-bred faces eight rivals while making his first start since his victory in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4 clinched the Eclipse Award as Horse of the Year and top Older Horse.
Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, the son of Candy Stripes swept to consecutive victories in the Pimlico Special (gr. I), Suburban Handicap (gr. I) at Belmont Park, and Whitney Handicap (gr. 1) at Saratoga after suffering his only defeat in 10 career starts when fourth behind Discreet Cat in the UAE Derby (UAE-II) in Dubai in March.
Elisabeth Alexander’s 6-year-old Magna Graduate carries 118 pounds from post seven with regular partner John Velazquez aboard for his first start since an easy 6 1/2-length tally in the Queens County Handicap (gr. III) at Aqueduct on Dec. 9, his second start after a lengthy layoff following a fourth-place finish in the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) in late March.
The most intriguing of Invasor’s rivals may be Lazy F Ranch’s 4-year-old Chatain, making just the fifth start of his career. The son of Forest Wildcat earned a hard-fought head victory in the Hal’s Hope Handicap (gr. III) at Gulfstream on Jan. 6 going a one-turn mile. Cornelio Velasquez is aboard breaking from post 4.
Trained by Angel Penna, Jr., Chatain flies the famous black and yellow colors of Mrs. Martha Gerry’s Lazy F Ranch that became so familiar to American racing fans in the mid-70's atop the great gelding Forego. The imposing son of Forli captured a memorable renewal of the Donn Handicap in 1974 over True Knight and Proud and Bold on the way to his first of three consecutive Horse of the Year titles (1974-76) for trainers Sherrill Ward and Frank Y. Whiteley, Jr.
Completing the field for this edition of the Donn are John Oxley’s Strong Contender, Live Oak Plantation’s Hesanoldsalt, Allen Paulson Living Trust’s A.P. Arrow, Mauk One Racing Stable’s Tap Dancing Mauk, J. Paul Reddam’s Barcola, and Sal Russomano and Anthony Bruno’s Halos Sailing Sain.
$500,000 Donn Handicap (gr. I, Race 9, 5:23 p.m.), 4 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Invasor (ARG), 123, Fernando Jara
2. Halos Sailing Sain (FL), 112, Joe Bravo
3. A. P. Arrow (KY), 112, Kent J. Desormeaux
4. Chatain (KY), 114, Cornelio H. Velasquez
5. Tap Dancing Mauk (KY), 112, Eduardo O. Nunez
6. Hesanoldsalt (KY), 114, Rafael Bejarano
7. Magna Graduate (KY), 118, John R. Velazquez
8. Barcola (KY), 110, Javier Castellano
9. Strong Contender (KY), 117, Edgar S. Prado