Trainer Norman Pointer had his stakes-winning gelding Rize work an easy three furlongs in :39 4/5 breezing Thursday morning. Rize is slated to start in Saturday's $500,000 Donn Handicap (gr. 1) at 1 1/8 miles at Gulfstream Park and was the lone Donn starter among the 14 entrants to work at Gulfstream on Thursday.
Rize is a grade 2 stakes winner, having won the Iselin Handicap by nine lengths at Monmouth Park in 2000. Last year, Rize won the Crème Fraiche Stakes at the Meadowlands in November and was an 11 1/2-length winner of an allowance race at Gulfstream Park in his 2002 debut on Jan. 7.
Red Bullet, who will be ridden by Jerry Bailey, has been installed the 3-1 morning-line favorite. The 1 1/18-mile race, to be run for the 44th time, is the track's most important race for older horses.
In his last start, Red Bullet, a 5-year-old Frank Stronach homebred, finished second to Sir Bear in the Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III) while making his first start at two turns since winning the 2000 Preakness (gr. I). "He didn't change leads (in the Holy Bull) and that might have been the reason," trainer Joe Orseno said of the loss. "He should definitely improve in the Donn."
Laura and Eugene Melnyk's Graeme Hall, thrice a grade II winner, will be looking for his first grade 1 victory on Saturday. A rollicking winner of last October's Stuyvesant Handicap (gr. III) in his last try at the distance, the 5-year-old son of Dehere is the 4-1 second-choice for the Donn.
"He has enough speed to put himself in position but I expect he will probably be close to the lead without being right on it," said trainer Todd Pletcher. Of drawing the 10 post position, Pletcher said, "It's good enough, but in a perfect world we would have been further inside."
The widest post was drawn by last year's Oaklawn Park Handicap (gr. I) winner Traditionally, who will carry Pat Day. While clearly not relishing the draw, trainer Shug McGaughey was more concerned with a track surface that has been especially deep and tiring over the past weeks. "It looks like it may be getting a little better," he said.
Best of the Rest, an oft-injured 7-year-old that trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. calls "The most talented horse I've ever trained," was made 6-1 to capture his first graded stakes win in the Donn. Though Eibar Coa was named to ride, the jockey faces a possible 30-day suspension.
Duckhorn and Kiss A Native were both listed at 8-1 by track handicapper Chuck Streva, while 2000 Florida Derby (gr. I) winner Hal's Hope, named after his breeder, trainer and owner, the 90-year-old Harold Rose, is 10-1.
Levity was introduced to the draw festivities with a David Letterman-style top ten list, with Rose proclaiming on video that the number one reason to watch the Donn is, "Because Hal's Hope is going to kick your butt."
The Donn was introduced in 1959 by track founder James Donn, Sr. and has been won throughout the years by Forego, Cigar, and Skip Away. Current Gulfstream Park chairman Doug Donn, the grandson of the founder, presided over the draw.
Field for the Donn Handicap:
1--Pleasant Divorce, 112, Ramon Dominquez, 20-1
2--(a) Mongoose, 113, Edgar Prado, 12-1
3--Keats, 111, Chavez, 15-1
4--Free of Love, 113, Renee Douglas, 15-1
5--Best of the Rest, 115, Eibar Coa, 6-1
6--(a) Ubiquity, Craig Perret, 113, 12-1
7--Hal's Hope., 113, Roger Velez, 10-1
8--Duckhorn, 113, Mark Guidry 8-1
9--Red Bullet, 117, Jerry Bailey, 3-1
10--Graeme Hall, 118, John Velazquez, 4-1
11-Watch Your Pennies, 110, Gary Bain, 30-1
12-Rize, 112, Jose Santos, 20-1
13--Kiss a Native, 114, Cornelio Velasquez, 801
14-Traditionally, 112, Day, 12-1
(a)--Gary and Mary West coupled entry