Max Hugel's Gal O Gal didn't draw well for Saturday's $100,000 Honey Fox Handicap (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park, according to Vinnie Blengs. But the trainer is keeping a positive outlook for his 4-year-old filly as she begins a campaign that might include the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf on Jan. 24.The daughter of Manlove ended up in the far outside post for the 1 1/16-mile turf event. It's a position Blengs' charge hasn't seen in some time, but the veteran conditioner thinks there might be a silver lining."We didn't get the best post out there, but she's a one-run type of horse so we're probably going to have to tuck in," said Blengs. "Out there you have to get lucky to get over and then get a good trip. That's all I'm hoping for at this point."Jockey Horacio Karamanos will be the one in charge of finding that trip when Gal O Gal joins 11 other fillies and mares in the starting gate. The rider will have to succeed where several other top jocks failed during a hard-luck 2003 season filled with races where the filly found traffic trouble.Gal O Gal managed to go 3-for-11 in 2003, with her best form coming at Gulfstream, but is winless since an allowance score at Belmont Park in May."She's coming back strong," said Blengs, "We had her going really good at this place last year, but she's going to have to find a way through there. It's going to be tough."Gal O Gal is on the list of nominations for the $300,000 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf, which will offer an extra half-furlong more than Saturday's race. She would need to ship to Santa Anita Park for this year's running.
Trainer Mark Hennig will try to stretch out the veteran mare Paga from sprints to a route in the Honey Fox. Since arriving in the U.S. and joining the barn of Richard Mandella in California, Paga has done most of her racing at shorter distances, becoming a specialist on the unique downhill turf course at Santa Anita Park. When Mandella concurred with owners R.D. Hubbard and Edward Allred that there are more opportunities for here in the East, the mare was shipped to Hennig who has made a few changes to take advantage of her experience."She's 7 now and we thought that since she was getting older, she wouldn't be up to the speed that you see in sprint races," said Hennig. "We see her starting to finish stronger so we decided to stretch her out for this race."Paga finished third in the five-furlong Bluff's Dividend Stakes at Calder Race Course last time, and after a slow break, did close the way Hennig expected. Eibar Coa, who was aboard for her last try, will be back on Saturday.May Gator's best recent efforts have come when turf races have been washed off the grass and with thinned competition, but trainer Steve Flint says the 5-year-old mare is just hoping for the right trip."I've got her fit and ready to go. All I can do is put it in Jorge's hands and say `lots of luck,'" said Flint referring to jockey Jorge Chavez who will be aboard in the 1 1/16 mile turf race. "She's got lots of versatility and Jorgie can run her out front, he can bring her from behind or sit in the middle."May Gator's last win was a wire-to-wire score over just three others in the Waya Stakes at Saratoga over a sloppy track in August. Her versatile running style has allowed her to stay very consistent. She finished no worse than fourth through 12 races in 2003. Over 29 lifetime races she's been second 11 times.
The weather forecast for Saturday calls for dry conditions, and that's a welcome relief to the folks sending out Katzen."We had a rainy season it seemed every time we tried to run her this year," said Lil Altieri, assistant to trainer Steve Klesaris. "Every time we tried to run her it seemed it would be rain, rain, rain. She would get soft or yielding turf and she just doesn't like that as much, so we're just happy for the opportunity to get a firm course."After winning the Christiana Stakes at Delaware Park in September 2002, Katzen was entered six times and was either forced on to the main track or raced on ground that was labeled good or yielding. Her only race on a firm course – an allowance at Delaware last July – produced a nose victory over Madeira Mist, who will be back for the Honey Fox as well."She wants to hear her hooves rattle and she just couldn't catch a break," said Altieri. "Other than that she's been great and is really easy to be around. We're just glad to hear things will be dry."$100,000 Honey fox Handicap (gr. IIIT), fillies & mares 3 & up, 1 1/16 mile on turf
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey, ML Odds
1. Madeira Mist (IRE), 117, Edgar Prado, 6-1
2. Miss Terrible (ARG), 115, Joe Bravo, 4-1
3. Love Sting (ONT), 114, Gary Bain, 15-1
4. Katzen (KY), 113, Jose Santos, 15-1
5. Delta Princess (KY), 116, Rene Douglas, 8-1
6. Paga (ARG), 113, Eibar Coa, 10-1
7. Something Ventured (KY), 117, John Velazquez, 7-2
8. Delmonico Cat (KY), 116, Jerry Bailey, 8-1
9. coney Kitty (IRE), 115, Cornelio Velasquez, 6-1
10. May Gator (KY), 113, Jorge Chavez, 20-1
11. Virgin Voyage (KY), 114, Will Arroyo, 20-1
12. Gal O Gal (FL), 114, Horacio Karamanos, 15-1