A field of eight older horses passed the entry box for Saturday's Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. II) valued at $300,000. Suave and Sun King, grade II winners last season are entered, each looking for his first win of 2006.
First run in 1946, the race carried grade I status from 1975-2002. Historically a 1 1/4-mile test, it was shortened to its current 1 3/16 miles in 2005 and became the stage for a 3 1/4-length romp for the Mark Hennig-trained Eddington.
The Paul McGee-trained Suave
heads this year's field, and though he faltered over a sloppy Gulfstream strip in the Donn Handicap (gr. I) Feb. 4, he knows his winter home track well and at his best is always one to fear.
The 5-year-old son of A.P. Indy
just missed in a thrilling head loss to Magna Graduate in the Clark Handicap (gr. II) in November. He last found the winner's enclosure in the 2005 Saratoga Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II).
Bred in Kentucky by Jan, Mace, and Samantha Siegel, and racing in the colors of Jay Em Ess Stable, the bay horse posted a fine breeze over the track (5f, fast, 1:01.00) Sunday and looks ready to avenge the Donn performance.
An earner of $1,124,583 and first or second in 11 of his 22 career starts, Suave will shoulder 116 pounds and should get his preferred stalking trip from post 2 with Rene Douglas aboard.
Tracy Farmer's Sun King
is one of two horses from the barn of trainer Nick Zito with the experience and talent to come away with a win. The 4-year-old son of Charismatic--Clever But Costly, by Clever Trick gave Farmer a case of Kentucky Derby (gr. I) fever in 2005 after his 3 1/4-length win in the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III), but finished 15th in the classic.
Bred in Kentucky by Cambridge Farm and James Daniel Conway, Sun King was purchased by Farmer for $400,000 at the 2003 Keeneland January horses of all ages sale. With additional 2005 wins in the Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II) and Leonard Richard Stakes (gr. III), Sun King has given the owner of Shadowlawn Farm a return of $1,384,710 on his investment.
Sun King prepared for the race with a strong work at Palm Meadows Training Center (5f, fast, 1:00.40, h) Saturday and has shown plenty of early speed in his wins. He'll have the services of Rafael Bejarano and will break from post 7 under a high weight of 117.
Zito will also send out Robert LaPenta's Andromeda's Hero
, who like Sun King, was no match in the Donn when third behind eventual winner Brass Hat. The 4-year-old son of Fusaichi Pegasus
won the Fred W. Hooper Handicap (gr. III) over nine furlongs at Calder in December and posted a lengthy work (7f, fast, 1:27.00, h) at Gulfstream on Sunday.
LaPenta's Whitehorse Stables paid $310,000 for the colt at the 2003 Keeneland September yearling sale, then held on to him when his reserve went unmet at $750,000 at that auction house's April sale of 2-year-olds in training.
Andromeda's Hero earned $200,000 when seven lengths behind Afleet Alex in last year's Belmont Stakes (gr. I) and stands with earnings of $628,307. Andromeda's Hero joins Suave carrying 116 and will break just to the right of his barnmate from post 8.
A colt with a chance to upset the field is Todd Pletcher's regally bred Harlington
, a 4-year-old son of Unbridled and the fifth foal out of 1995 champion 3-year old filly Serena's Song.
Bred in Kentucky by Lewis Thoroughbreds, this $2.8-million yearling races for the Melnyk Racing Stables of Eugene and Laura Melnyk. He has four wins in just five starts to make his case, though none in stakes company.
It's No Joke, Who's Crying Now, three-time grade I winner and Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide, and Argentine-bred Contante make up the rest of the field.Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. II), Saturday, March 4, 4-year-olds and upward, 1 3/16 miles, $300,000, estimated post time 4:27 p.m. EDT.
PP -- Horse, weight, jockey
1 -- It's No Joke, 111, Mark Guidry
2 -- Suave, 116, Rene Douglas
3 -- Who's Crying Now, 115, Cornelio Velasquez
4 -- Harlington, 114, John Velazquez
5 -- Funny Cide, 114, Edgar Prado
6 -- Contante, 113, Shaun Bridgmohan
7 -- Sun King, 117, Rafael Bejarano
8 -- Andromeda's Hero, 116, Jeremy Rose