Nick Zito is not known for training grass horses, but on Feb. 7 he tries to add a rare turf score to his graded stakes resume when he sends out Calumet Farm's hard-knocking Starstruck in the 1 1/8-mile Suwannee River Stakes at Gulfstream Park.
The 6-year-old daughter of Galileo had previously been trained by Larry Jones since coming to the U.S. from the barn of Dermot Weld in Ireland.
During her stay in the United States, Starstruck has scored back-to-back victories in the Matchmaker Stakes (gr. III) at Monmouth Park and has finished on the board in several other stakes, including a solid fourth-place finish in the Rodeo Drive Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park.
The 6-year-old mare will be making her first start since a fifth-place finish, beaten 2 3/4 lengths, in the Flower Bowl Invitational (gr. I) at Belmont Park. She will be ridden for the first time by Jose Lezcano and will break from post 4 in the 13-horse field. One additional horse, Sheer Drama, is entered for main track only.
The Suwannee River appears to be a wide-open affair with no real standout.
Todd Pletcher has a big chance with another former European, the Irish-bred Sandiva, coming off a game victory by a neck in the Tropical Park Oaks at Gulfstream, her first victory in four starts in the United States.
The 4-year-old daughter of Footstepsinthesand was classy filly in Europe, winning the Lanwades Stud Nell Gwyn Stakes (Eng-III) at Newmarket and the PMU Prix du Calvados (Fr-III) at Deauville. She also finished fifth, beaten 2 1/4 lengths, in the Coronation Stakes (Eng-I) at Royal Ascot in her final start in Europe.
Finishing seventh in the Tropical Park Oaks was the Marty Wolfson-trained Pink Poppy, who came right back to win the Sunshine Millions Filly& Mare Turf at Gulfstream.
One filly with back class to watch is Rosalind, who was a fast-closing third the 2013 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I), then dead-heated to win in the 2014 Ashland Stakes (gr. I) on the Keeneland Polytrack. But the daughter of Broken Vow has not done much recently for trainer Ken McPeek and has been transferred to the barn of Chad Brown, who adds blinkers for the Suwannee River. Former rider Joel Rosario is back aboard.
Bill Mott sends out White Rose, winner of the Kentucky Downs Ladies Marathon and the Dowager Stakes at Keeneland in her past two starts. John Velazquez rides, but will have to break from post 13.
A speed danger breaking from the rail is Skylander Girl, who set the pace in the Marshua's River Stakes (gr. IIIT) in her last start, only to give way in the final furlong and finishing second to Parranda. The daughter of Stroll placed in four stakes at Woodbine last year.
Shug McGaughey sends out Stuart Janney III's Scampering, coming off a fourth in the Marshua's River and before that a close third in the Lady Baltimore Stakes at Laurel Park. Gulfstream Park, Saturday, February 07, 2015, Race 10
PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L 1 1Skylander Girl (ON) Luis Contreras 117 Alexander P. Patykewich - 2 2Bitty Kitty (KY) Corey J. Lanerie 119 Brendan P. Walsh - 3 3Scampering (KY) Luis Saez 117 Claude R. McGaughey III - 4 4Starstruck (IRE) Jose Lezcano 121 Nicholas P. Zito - 5 5E B Ryder (FL) Edgar S. Prado 121 Martin D. Wolfson - 6 6Nellie Cashman (PA) Rajiv Maragh 121 Francis Abbott, III - 7 7Rock On Baby (FL) Paco Lopez 117 Martin D. Wolfson - 8 8Sandiva (IRE) Javier Castellano 121 Todd A. Pletcher - 9 9Pink Poppy (FL) Julien R. Leparoux 121 Martin D. Wolfson - 10 10Rosalind (KY) Joel Rosario 123 Chad C. Brown - 11 11Bohemian Dance (IRE) Manoel R. Cruz 117 Michael Dilger - 12 12Cay Dancer (GB) Edgard J. Zayas 121 Chad C. Brown - 13 13White Rose (KY) John R. Velazquez 121 William I. Mott - 14 14Sheer Drama (FL) Joe Bravo 117 David Fawkes -
Gulfstream Park, Saturday, February 07, 2015, Race 10