While 3-year-olds take the spotlight at Gulfstream Park Feb. 20, a pair of grade III turf stakes for older horses at one mile, the Canadian Turf and the Honey Fox, shape up as outstanding supporting features with large fields.
The $150,000 Canadian Turf brings back Pam and Marty Wygod's homebred Courageous Cat for his first appearance since he nearly upset Goldikova in the TVG Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) at Santa Anita last fall. The 4-year-old Storm Cat colt is part of a nine-horse field.
The $100,000 Honey Fox, for older fillies and mares, attracted 14 entrants and a pair of also-eligibles. Stuart Janney III's 5-year-old homebred Quiet Harbor, on a five-race win streak for trainer Shug McGaughey, heads a highly competitive group.
The Canadian Turf follows the $150,000 Hutcheson Stakes (gr. III) as the ninth race on the Gulfstream program, while the Honey Fox comes immediately after the $250,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) as race 11 on the card.
Courageous Cat had edged away to a 1 1/2-length lead in mid-stretch of the Breeders' Cup Mile for jockey Garrett Gomez Nov. 7, but their upset bid at odds of 22-1 was foiled by Goldikova's searing late turn of foot, resulting in a half-length victory over the runner-up Courageous Cat. Winner of the Hall of Fame Stakes (gr. IIT) at Saratoga for trainer Bill Mott last summer, the bay colt, out of the Wygods' outstanding race mare Tranquility Lake, has been working at Payson Park for his return.
A three-time winner in eight starts, Courageous Cat has earned $571,300 in his career. He will be ridden once again by Gomez, who was aboard for the first time in the Breeders' Cup. They will break from post 7 under co-high weight of 124 pounds.
Also carrying 124 is Rahy's Attorney. The winner of the 2008 Woodbine Mile (Can-I) is trained by Ian Black for co-owner and breeder Ellie Boje Farm. Last seen in a second-place finish in the nine-furlong River City Handicap (gr. IIIT) on the Churchill Downs turf Nov. 27, the 6-year-old Ontario-bred gelding returns to his favorite distance in the Canadian Turf. The bay has won five of seven starts at one mile.
Robert Landry has the mount on Rahy's Attorney, a 10-time winner of $1,549,136 in 26 lifetime starts. They'll break from post 8.
Front-running Jet Propulsion has won three in a row for trainer Marty Wolfson and captured the Sunshine Millions Turf over the Gulfstream course Jan. 30 by two lengths for owner/breeder Farnsworth Stables. The 7-year-old gelding has won 13 of 45 starts in his career while banking $564,523.
Le Grand Cru, winner of Aqueduct's Bold Ruler Handicap (gr. III) on the dirt for trainer Allen Jerkens last fall, set the pace in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (gr. IT) Feb. 6 before weakening late to finish fourth. He was elevated to third by the disqualification of the original winner, Take the Points. The 5-year-old son of Dynaformer is winless in five starts on grass.
Also in the field is grade III winner Mambo Meister and Pickapocket, who ran second in the Sunshine Millions Turf.
Quiet Harbor is one of five in the Honey Fox field that will carry 123 pounds. The 5-year-old Silver Deputy mare has a win over the course at the meet, coming from off the pace to score by a head in the Marshua River Jan. 16. She will be cutting back in distance by a sixteenth of a mile here. Quiet Harbor won her stakes debut three months prior to the Marshua River, capturing the Violet Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Meadowlands by three-quarters of a length.
Regular rider Eddie Castro has the call on the bay mare, who must break from post 13 in the big field. Quiet Harbor is 6-1-2 in 11 starts with earnings of $252,670.
Bart B. Evans' homebred Wasted Tears is also on a roll, having won three in a row and six of her past seven, mostly in the southwest. Winner of the Ouija Board Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Lone Star Park last May, she returned from an eight-month absence Jan. 28 to capture a one-mile optional claiming allowance race over the Gulstream lawn by one length in gate-to-wire style.
Evans also trains the 5-year-old daughter of Najran, who drew the extreme outside post and will carry 123 pounds, including Cornelio Velasquez, who rides her for the first time.
Paul Pompa Jr.'s grade I winner Backseat Rhythm, another at 123, tries to find her winning form after four consecutive off-the-board finishes since taking the Hillsborough Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Tampa Bay last March. Trained by Rick Dutrow Jr., Backseat Rhythm was out-kicked in her most recent try in the Marshua River and finished seventh. She won both the Lake Placid (gr. IIT) and Garden City (gr. IT) in back-to-back fashion over yielding ground in New York in 2008 and boasts lifetime earnings of $840,195.
New Zealand-bred Belmont Cat, also among the top-weighted group, makes her first start since finishing fifth in the Wilshire Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Hollywood Park last May. Trained by John Sadler for Doubledown Stables, the 6-year-old mare won two of four starts in Southern California after transferring from her native country, including the Santa Ana Handicap (gr. IIT) last March 22.
Afternoon Stroll has dropped six in a row since winning Keeneland's Appalachian (gr. IIIT) at odds of 50-1 on April 16.
$150,000 Canadian Turf Stakes (gr. IIIT, Race 9, 5:08 p.m.), 4 & Up, 1 Mile (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Le Grand Cru (KY), J Lezcano, 120, H A Jerkens
2. Mambo Meister (KY), J R Velazquez, 122, P A Gleaves
3. Pickapocket (FL), E Trujillo, 118, M D Wolfson
4. Jet Propulsion (FL), J R Leparoux, 122, M D Wolfson
5. Cherokee Artist (KY), J Rose, 120, H G Motion
6. Vanquisher (FL), A Garcia, 118, G A Griffith
7. Courageous Cat (KY), G K Gomez, 124, W I Mott
8. Rahy's Attorney (ON), R C Landry, 124, I Black
9. Star Plus (ARG), R Maragh, 118, A J Penna, Jr.
Main Track Only
10. Dream Maestro (FL), M R Cruz, 118, W A Kaplan
$100,000 Honey Fox Stakes (gr. IIIT, Race 11, 6:09 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 4 & Up, 1 Mile (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Meriwether Jessica (NY), A Garcia, 117, L Rice
2. Backseat Rhythm (KY), G K Gomez, 123, R E Dutrow, Jr.
3. Belmont Cat (NZ), M E Smith, 123, J W Sadler
4. Romacaca (FL), J L Castanon, 117, D L Miller
5. Meadow Saffron (KY), R C Landry, 117, F J Seitz
6. Akilina (NY), R Maragh, 121, C Clement
7. Bluegrass Princess (KY), J R Leparoux, 117, C C Brown
8. Cherokee Queen (KY), J Rose, 117, H G Motion
9. Drop a Line (KY), J Rocco, Jr., 117, H G Motion
10. Kitty Cat Express (FL), J Lezcano, 119, N R Pointer
11. Sales Tax (MD), E Trujillo, 117, L Delacour
12. Afternoon Stroll (KY), M R Cruz, 123, T E Hamm
13. Quiet Harbor (KY), E Castro, 123, C R McGaughey III
14. Wasted Tears (KY), C H Velasquez, 123, B B Evans
15. Our Dahlia (KY), E S Prado, 117, N Santos
16. Yes She's a Lady (KY), J R Velazquez, 117, T A Pletcher
Blinkers Off: Bluegrass Princess, Yes She's a Lady