A field of six will contest the 47th running of the grade I Donn Handicap, traditionally the opening salvo of the handicap divisional season. This year's edition includes 2004 Eclipse Award finalist Roses in May and last year's Clark Handicap (gr. II) winner St. Liam--both of whom tussled with Horse of the Year Ghostzapper.
Ken and Sarah Ramsey's standout Roses in May enters off a three-month freshening after a brave second to the son of Awesome Again
in last years Breeders' Cup Classic - Powered by Dodge (gr. I). Bred in Kentucky by Margaux Farm, the dark bay son of Devil His Due
has posted a string of careful works at Palm Meadows Training Center of late, but the combination of the Ramseys and trainer Dale Romans always has this horse ready to run.
The loss in the October Classic snapped a five-race win streak that saw Roses in May take three graded stakes, including the Whitney Handicap (gr. I) at Saratoga. A $19,000 Keeneland September yearling sale graduate in 2001, the Ramseys purchased him for $115,000 at the 2002 Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's spring sale of 2-year-olds in training and have been rewarded with $1,795,187 for their faith in the strikingly handsome horse.
Set to carry a highweight of 121 pounds and last year's Eclipse Award-winning jockey John Velazquez, the speedy Roses in May will break from post 5 and should find his preferred spot near the front for the two-turn, 1 1/8-mile affair.
Likely to take him on early is Mr. and Mrs. William K. Warren's Saint Liam. The Kentucky-bred son of Saint Ballado posted a fine record himself in 2004, scoring in the Clark and hitting the board in three other graded stakes, one a game neck-loss to Ghostzapper in the one-turn, 1 1/8-mile Woodward Handicap (gr. I).
Bred by Edward P. Evans and conditioned by Richard Dutrow, Saint Liam has been training well in preparation for the race, posting a bullet work (4f, F, :47.00, B, 1/18) over the new and improved Gulfstream track Tuesday.
A $130,000 2001 Fasig-Tipton New York Saratoga select yearling sale graduate, Saint Liam has shown good early speed in his victories, and you can expect him not to let Roses in May steal this one at the outset. Regular rider and Eclipse finalist Edgar Prado gets the call for a trip from post 6 and an impost of 119.
Willmott Stables' strong-closing Eddington is a colt in fine form heading into the race, having hit the board in his last five starts--four graded stakes--and with back-to-back Florida victories on the turf in the grade III Calder Derby by a head, and an 8 3/4-length score in a Gulfstream allowance on the track three weeks ago.
Trained by Mark Hennig, the strapping chestnut son of Unbridled was bred in Kentucky by Carl Rosen Associates and came into the mind of the racing public with three straight third-place finishes in last year's Gotham Stakes (gr. II), Wood Memorial (gr. I) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I) before a distant fourth-place finish in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I).
Eddington boasts a bullet (5f, F, :59.60, H, 1/20) of his own over the track Jan. 28 and should be hoping for a speed duel between Roses in May and Saint Liam. He gets the services of Eibar Coa and will carry 114 starting from the rail.
Nick Zito sends in a pair of stablemates owned by Robert LaPenta: the stalking Pies Prospect, by Craft Prospector, bred in Kentucky by Gordon Wootton and Mary Lou Wootton; and closer Seek Gold, by Touch Gold
, bred also in the Bluegrass by Highland Farm.
Four-year-old Pies Prospect comes in off an 8 1/2-length romp in the Fred Hooper Handicap (gr. III) at Calder in December and sports some solid works this month over the surface. Javier Castellano gets the call.
Seek Gold finished a steady second to Saint Liam in the Clark in his last start, and was second before that in the Metroplex Mile at Lone Star Park in late October. The 5-year-old will be looking for his first stakes win for the connections under rider Jerry Bailey, whom he'll get to know for the first time.
Two-time stakes winner Wishingitwas, victorious over Seek Gold the Metroplex Mile on the Lone Star Breeders' Cup undercard, rounds out the field under Brice Blanc.Donn Handicap (gr. I), 3-Year-Olds and Up, 1 1/8 miles, $500,000, 4:55 PM EST.
PP -- Horse, weight, jockey
1--Eddington, 114, Eibar Coa
2--Pies Prospect, 114, Javier Castellano
3--Seek Gold, 113, Jerry Bailey
4--Wishingitwas, 113, Brice Blanc
5--Roses in May, 121, John Velazquez
6--Saint Liam, 119, Edgar Prado