Ultimate Eagle On Go for Donn; Csaba Works
Photo: Benoit Photo
Ultimate Eagle

Southern California-based Ultimate Eagle has been confirmed for the Donn Handicap (gr. I) Feb. 9 at Gulfstream Park, while other contenders Csaba and Take Charge Indy   put in their final breezes for the race Feb. 2.

In related news, Mucho Macho Man   has been ruled out of the Donn.

B.J. Wright’s grade I winner Ultimate Eagle is set to be flown from Southern California to South Florida Feb. 5 to run in the $500,000 event.

The speedy 5-year-old will be making his first start in the 1 1/8-mile Donn since finishing second by a head in the San Pasqual Handicap (gr. II) at Santa Anita Park Jan. 5.

"We just thought it was time to test the waters," said trainer Mike Pender Friday from his Hollywood Park headquarters. "He’ll be coming on a FedEx cargo flight Tuesday and I will be there, too. He’ll breeze here on Monday before we fly. He’ll be making his third start back off the layoff and the timing is right. He’s trained great. Martin (Pedroza) will ride him."

A Kentucky-bred by Mizzen Mast  , Ultimate Eagle has made all of his career starts at Southern California tracks, enjoying his greatest success on turf. He brings a 12-5-2-3 record and earnings of $547,000 into the Donn. Only three of his races have been on the dirt.

As a 3-year-old in 2011, Ultimate Eagle won four consecutive races on turf, highlighted by a victory in the Hollywood Derby (gr. IT) in the fall.

Ultimate Eagle made only three starts last year, winning the Strub Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita by 7 1/4 lengths in his first try on dirt before finishing 10th in the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I). He returned from a nine-month layoff to finish a game second on turf in the Citation Handicap (gr. IIT) on grass at Hollywood Nov. 23 before his good try on dirt in the San Pasqual.

At Calder Casino & Race Course, Bruce Hollander and Cary Shapoff's 4-year-old Csaba breezed an easy half-mile in :50 2/5 Feb. 2 under regular exercise ride Oscar Perez. Csaba will be bidding for a fifth consecutive stakes victory in the Donn.

"He's doing good and looked good this morning," said trainer Phil Gleaves. "It's a big test for us and most of the horses in the race. It's a quality Donn field."

Asked about how the race might shape up with several leading contenders tending to run on or near the lead, the trainer said, "The good thing about Csaba is that he's proven to be so tractable. We don't have to rely on anybody else in the race to show speed or not. He makes his own race."

A son of Kitten's Joy  , Csaba has won eight of 17 career starts. After scores in the off-the-turf Tropical Park Derby in mid-October and Fred Hooper Handicap (gr. III) in November at Calder, he won the 1 1/16-mile Harlan's Holiday Stakes at Gulfstream Dec. 16 by 3 3/4 lengths. He turned back for a game victory in the one turn mile Hal's Hope Stakes (gr. III) Jan. 13.

Meanwhile, WinStar Farm and Chuck and Maribeth Sandford's 4-year-old Take Charge Indy turned in a bullet half-mile in :47 flat at Palm Meadows. The 2012 Florida Derby (gr. I) will be making his 2013 season debut in the Donn.

"He was sharp. I wanted to put a little speed in him and stretch his legs," said trainer Pat Byrne. "He actually went three-eighths in :34 2/5 and galloped out in 47. We're all set and looking forward to next Saturday."

As for the possible pace scenarios, particularly with front-running California invader Ultimate Eagle in the race, Byrne said, "He's (Take Charge Indy) push-button. If somebody else wants the lead they can have it. We'll just sit off it."

A regally-bred son of A.P. Indy out of grade I winner Take Charge Lady, Take Charge Indy makes his first start since a game second-place finish to Shackleford   in the Clark Handicap (gr. I) at Churchill Downs Nov. 23.

Trainer Kathy Ritvo opted not to send Mucho Macho Man to the Donn.

"After considering the Donn as an option, we've decided to pass," she said. "It does not fit as well into our long-term objectives for Mucho Macho Man as others do."

Mucho Macho Man failed to extend himself on a sloppy Gulfstream track in the Florida Sunshine Millions Classic in his most recent start Jan. 19. That was his first outing since finishing a close second behind Fort Larned   in the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) at Santa Anita.

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