Four last-out winners over the Gulfstream Park turf course head a well-matched field of 13 in Friday's $100,000 Palm Beach Stakes (gr. IIIT) at 1 1/8 miles. The 16th running of the Palm Beach will go as the ninth event on a 10-race program. Twelve horses will be allowed to start on the turf course, with C.A. Bishop's Whisper Handsome the lone also-eligible.
Diane and G.B. Snowden's Peekskill, who drew into the body of the race, was entered as a "main-track-only" runner. The Meadowlake colt will come out if the race remains on grass.
Peter Vegso's Orchard Park, who has the right connections if not the right post position, is the morning line favorite to score a Gulfstream repeat. The Hennessy colt has a Hall of Fame lineup in his corner, with Bill Mott the trainer and Jerry Bailey the rider. Orchard Park, who drew Post 12, has a two-race win streak on turf, winning at Aqueduct in November before shipping south. He took an allowance at Gulfstream on Jan. 11 by 3 1/2 lengths.
The other last out winners entered are Worldly Investments's Worldly Victor; Amerman Racing Stable's Cross Calibrate; and William Sorokolit Sr.'s Union Place.
Worldly Victor scored an upset win in the Dave Feldman Stakes on Jan. 14, getting up with a late rush to beat Charming Colony. Worldly Victor was 20-1 that day, but will be a much shorter price Friday. Trainer Phil Gleaves has given the riding call again to Pat Day again.
Mark Hennig trains Cross Calibrate, who broke his maiden at Gulfstream Jan. 9 in just his second career start. The Dixieland Band colt goes from the rail Friday with John Velazquez aboard for the first time.
Union Place, who won on the turf at Saratoga to break his maiden last summer, made a splash in his 3-year-old debut at Gulfstream Jan. 27 when he rolled to a 4-length allowance victory for trainer Randy Schulhofer. Edgar Prado will return in the irons. "He's a nice colt and likes this course," Schulhofer said. "He won on it the only time he ran on it. He's been training very well and had a good workout on Monday. He went in 1:03 3/5 breezing and it'll set him up nicely. I look for him to run a good race."
Charming Colony, owned and trained by Vinnie Blengs, had a world of trouble in the Feldman and was beaten only 1 1/2 lengths. If there is one thing Charming Colony needs in the Palm Beach, it is a fast pace "He's run much better since I've taught him how to make a big run late,"
Charming Colony has won twice and been second twice in four starts on the turf. More recently, he won an allowance race at Calder Race Course in his 2001 finale on Dec. 22. He then rallied from eighth to finish second in the Feldman in his seasonal debut. "He really likes the Gulfstream turf course," Blengs said. "I blew him out three furlongs this morning (:36 2/5 on the turf course with the dogs up) just to get his attention. Rene Douglas has been riding him and will ride him again. All I ask is fast pace."
Jon Stable and Gordon Racing Corp.'s Lord Juban, who won two straight on turf at Calder last December, finished third in the Feldman. Trainer Tim Ritvo has named Cornelio Velasquez back aboard the Lord Avie colt. Ritvo had entered both Lord Juban and Class of Seventy, but only Lord Juban made it to the entry box.
"I decided to run Lord Juban by himself," Ritvo said Wednesday morning. "Lord Juban is strictly a grass horse and the added distance will not be a problem for him."
A son of 1981 Florida Derby winner Lord Avie, Lord Juban finished third in his last start here in the Feldman. Previously, he had come from off the pace at Calder to drawoff by 3 lengths at 1 1/16-mile against allowance company.
The others entered are R.J. Wilson's Red's Top Gun, Mark Guidry, who was seventh in the Feldman and fourth in a subsequent start on the main track here; Bjorn Nielson's Ransom the Royalty, Jeremy Beasley, who has been competing in claiming company; Henick Stable's Emergency Status, Jose Santos, who ran sixth in the Feldman; Shelton and Pincione's Ricky N Chip, Clyde Martin, winless in six tries on turf, and F. Franchi's Nice Boy, Emile Ramsammy, seventh and fourth in two tries at the meet.
Whisper Handsome, also with Santos named, was far back in the Feldman and is still a maiden after four starts. "I just can't find a race for his condition," said trainer Angelo Camillo, echoing similar comments made prior to Whisper Handsome's appearance in the Feldman. "The horse wants to go long, and he looks like a grass horse, and I've been looking for a maiden race for him, but I can't seem to get one. I even tried Tampa. But this race Saturday is at a mile and an eighth, and I know one thing -- the farther they go, the better he'll like it."