(Gulfstream Park notes)
Most of the leading contenders for the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic to be run at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 24 are already stabled in South Florida for the winter season, but a few will be flying in for the 1 1/8 miles test, including West Point Thoroughbreds’ 4-year-old Macho Again from Fair Grounds in New Orleans.
“He’s doing fine, just needs a couple more works and we’ll be there,” said trainer Dallas Stewart Jan. 7. A roan/gray Florida-bred colt by Macho Uno , Macho Again was a major player in the 3-year-old division last year as runner-up to Big Brown in the Preakness (gr. I) at Pimlico and winner of the Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II) at Saratoga.
After finishing second as the 6-to-5 favorite in the Super Derby (gr. II) at Louisiana Downs on Sept. 20, Macho Again got some time off before coming back in the Woodchopper Stakes at Fair Grounds on Dec. 20, his turf debut, finishing sixth of seven and apparently not taking to the surface.
“He got what he needed out of it,” said Stewart, who expects Macho Again to arrive in Florida on Jan. 20.
The probable field for the Classic appears to be coming up strong with at least 10 graded-stakes winners under consideration, led by Peter Vegso’s Go Between, who won the race last year at Santa Anita for trainer Bill Mott.
A Florida homebred by Point Given , Go Between went on to finish second in the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) and Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. II) and won the Pacific Classic (gr. I) at Del Mar. In his lone start after the Del Mar race, he finished a close-up fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) at Santa Anita on Oct. 25, beaten 4 1/2 lengths for it all by Raven’s Pass.
Go Between has been working steadily at Payson Park, most recently breezing an easy five furlongs Jan. 5 in 1:01 3/5.
Other stakes winners training in South Florida being pointed for the Sunshine Millions Classic include Hobeau Farm’s Delightful Kiss, Rolbea Thoroughbreds’ Finallymadeit, Carol Nyren’s Dry Martini, Centaur Farm’s Gottcha Gold, Bea Oxenberg’s Hey Byrn, Haras Santa Maria de Araras’ Palladio and Mount Joy Stable’s Smooth Air.
Grand Couturier Could Get Earlier Start This Season
Marc Keller’s 6-year-old turf star Grand Couturier took the winter off last year before launching a five-race campaign that yielded victories in the Sword Dancer Invitational (gr. I) at Saratoga and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (gr. I) at Belmont Park. Trainer Bob Ribaudo says his stable star could fire things up earlier in 2009 and might make an appearance at Gulfstream Park.
“We haven’t stopped on him this year,” said Ribaudo. “We’ve already got him back going, and he’s a good horse so it doesn’t take much to keep him going.”
While Ribaudo isn’t thinking about the $250,000 Gulfstream Park Turf (gr. I) on Feb. 1, he is almost certain the campaign will start earlier than the June kickoff the English-bred son of Grand Lodge had in 2009.
“He hasn’t breezed or anything yet,” said Ribaudo. “But we’re thinking more like the Mac Diarmida Stakes (gr. II, Feb. 21). The (turf) course looks great.”
The Mac Diarmida is run at 1 3/8 miles, a distance that suits Grand Couturier’s rallying style – a trait the horse gets from his training, according to Ribaudo.
“So far he’s just been jogging and galloping, but he does two miles every day,” he said. “He maintains good fitness and it takes little time to get him in gear.”