Gander had such an impressive workout here on Saturday that trainer John Terranova II and owners Mike and Ted Gatsas have decided to run him in Saturday's $500,000 Donn Handicap to be run over 1 1/8 miles. Gander earned the bullet work when he went six furlongs in 1:12 2/5 handily."He's been working so well and doing so good," Terranova said. "I talked it over with the owners and we've decided to give him a shot in the Donn. He's fresh and ready and he showed in New York last year he belongs with this field."Terranova took over training Gander last summer for the Gatsas brothers who have been in the horse business for about four years. The brothers are from Manchester, N. H. and own about 20 horses, including a couple of broodmares. They paid $50,000 for Gander at the 1998 OBS sale for 2-year-olds in training. He and a stablemate, the stakes-winning Shadow Caster, are the best horses they've ever owned.Terranova won with Gander the first crack out of the box. That came in the Evan Shipman Handicap for New York-breds on July 23 at Belmont. The gray gelding then finished third behind Pleasant Breeze in the Saratoga Breeders' Cup Handicap and was third behind Lemon Drop Kid and Behrens (beaten three-quarters of a length) in the Woodward Stakes on Sept. 16.
Gander then met the best the East Coast has to offer in the Jockey Club Gold Cup on Oct. 14 at Belmont.Wearing blinkers for the first time and with John Velazquez in the saddle, Gander finished second behind Albert the Great (a horse he is likely to meet in the Donn). Gander started once more in 2000 and that came in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4. The gray gelding couldn't overcome a slow start and finished ninth."He hit the side of the gate at the start then bumped another horse at the start in the Breeders' Cup," Terranova said. "Then John (Velazquez) had to rush him and he raced six wide after that. All things considered, he didn't run all that badly because he's the kind of horse that likes to run close to the pace and grind it out."After the Breeders' Cup, Terranova shipped Gander to the Hill N' Dale Farm in Kentucky for a freshener. "He spent about 30 days at the farm in Kentucky," Terranova said, "and the time off really helped him. He's been training excellently ever since I brought him down here. John Velazquez has been riding him and he'll ride him again on Saturday." In other Donn developments, trainer Nick Zito, who saddled Stephen Got Even to win last year's Donn Handicap, says he's happy with the five-furlong work recorded by Albert The Great one week before this year's renewal of Gulfstream's test for older horses."I'm very pleased," said Zito of Albert The Great's handy move clocked in :58 at Hialeah earlier in the day. "He was very professional in the way he did it. He looked like he wanted to do it."Zito, who had been somewhat hesitant to commit Albert The Great to the Donn Handicap earlier, appeared more certain after the Saturday morning move. "I was really leaning toward something else," Zito said, "but he looks like he's coming to his best form now."Zito had expressed similar reservations about Stephen Got Even in the Donn a year ago until shortly before that colt's winning effort.
Albert The Great, six-length winner of the Jockey Club Gold Cup last October 14 at Belmont Park, won that race in front-running fashion and has used that style in most of his races."I think we'll stick with that strategy," Zito said.In the Breeders' Cup Classic on November 4, Albert The Great's last trip to the post, the 4-year-old son of Go for Gin was bumped and forced to check at the start and never made the lead.Sir Bear, the 8-year-old altered son of Sir Leon who is a projected starter in Saturday's grade I Donn Handicap, worked five furlongs handily in 1:01 4/5 at Calder Race Course Monday morning. Meanwhile, trainer Jim Bond is looking for a rider for Pleasant Breeze, who normally has the services of Jorge Chavez. Pleasant Breeze, third in the grade III Skip Away Handicap January 13 after being away from the races since last August, has been working regularly in preparation for the Donn."He's been training really well," conditionerBond said. "He's doing good right now, but the Donn looks like it's shaping up as a really tough race." Should Pleasant Breeze make his expected start in the Donn, trainer Bond will be looking for a new jockey for the 6-year-old. Jorge Chavez, who has ridden the altered son of Pleasant Tap in all but one of his last 10 starts, has committed to the Nick Zito-trained Albert The Great in the Donn."We're not sure what we're going to do," Bond said. "We'll see who else is going in the race, and then see who's available."In last summer's Mass Cap at Suffolk Downs, Pleasant Breeze's only recent start when Chavez was unavailable, New England-based Josiah Hampshire rode the Kentucky-bred and finished seventh, beaten eight lengths, in that June 3 outing.Trainer Milt Wolfson has a weighty decision in front of him concerning Rich Celebration's projected next start in Saturday's Grade 1 Donn Handicap."I don't have any problem with the weight they assigned us," Wolfson said of Rich Celebration's 112-pound impost. My jock (Jose Santos) can't do any less than 114 anyway, so that doesn't bother me.
"But I'm not happy with the 120 pounds that they gave Captain Steve. I'm sure those people are happy, but I'm not. He's supposed to be one of the best horses in the country, but if we go in there, we're only going to end up with a six-pound spread."In his last trip to the post, Rich Celebration rallied for a fourth-place finish in Skip Away Handicap on January 13, beaten less than four lengths for all of it in the mile and a sixteenth test. Before that the Rizzi colt had won Calder's Jatski Stakes on December 30 when going two turns. Previously Rich Celebration had been sprinting throughout his summer campaign.According to Gulfstream Park, possible Donn starters, with weights and jockeys, are: Captain Steve, 120, Jerry Bailey; Albert the Great, 119, Jorge Chavez; Pleasant Breeze, 116, (Indefinite); Sir Bear, 116, Eibar Coa; North East Bound, 116, Jose Velez Jr.' Gander, 115, John Velazquez; Rich Celebration, 112, Jose Santos; Noble Ruler, 111, Pat Day; Tempest Fugit, 111, Edgar Prado; and Vision and Verse, 114, (indefinite).