Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel, a staple in Southern California but a rarity in South Florida, plans on saddling Jerome and John W. Amerman's Lido Palace in the Donn Handicap (gr. I) Feb. 9 at Gulfstream Park.
The Donn, observing its 44th renewal in 2002, has earned international attention in recent years as an early barometer of the handicap division in Thoroughbred racing. The wintertime classic is contested at 1 1/8 miles on the main course.
Lido Palace, a 5-year-old Chilean-bred, made his last trip to the post in the Japan Cup (Jpn-I) at Tokyo Race Course last Nov. 24 and finished eighth in an unusually dull performance. Before that, however, the chestnut had scored back-to-back triumphs in grade I competition, winning Saratoga's prestigious Whitney Handicap on July 28 and returning to capture the equally important Woodward at Belmont Park Sept. 8.
Both of those races were run at the Donn Handicap distance of nine furlongs.
"I'm working on making travel arrangements right now," said Frankel, when contacted at his Southern California headquarters. "That's the only thing left to do and I should have a more definite idea on exactly when we are coming by Monday. I plan on coming myself to be with the horse at Gulfstream."
Lido Palace, after a Chilean campaign that took him through his 3-year-old season, came under Frankel's care about three months before his first 2001 start in Dubai in the UAE Derby at Nad Al Sheba (UAE-III) March 24. He finished third.
Sent to Chicago for his first American start in the Hawthorne Gold Cup Handicap (gr. II) last May 19, Lido Palace came from off the pace to finish second, beaten a length and a quarter, behind the front-running Duckhorn.
The chestnut then was second behind Albert the Great in the Suburban Handicap (gr. II) July 1 at Belmont before posting his Whitney/Woodward parlay. In the Japan Cup, which Frankel had captured 12 years earlier with Pay The Butler in 1989, Lido Palace raced very wide and weakened steadily after the first mile.
"He just didn't run his race that day," said Frankel about the uncharacteristic performance. "He came down with a slight temperature a couple of days before the race and just wasn't his usual self. You can throw that race out."
Frankel said Lido Palace has been working well lately, having worked Monday at Hollywood Park in 1:13.
"He's fit," he said.
In other Gulfstream news, another South American-bred with a Dubai connection who will be an upcoming Gulfstream attraction is Raising Dust Stable's Mr. Pleasantfar. The Brazilian-bred 5-year-old, who was nominated to Sunday's Mac Diarmida Handicap (gr. III), is instead being prepped for the Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. I) to be contested at a mile and three-eighths on the grass Feb. 16.
The Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. I), final local prep for the Florida Derby (gr. I) will also be run that day.
"After (the Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup), he's going to Dubai," said trainer Mary Wolfson.