Lea won the 2014 Hal's Hope by 3 1/4 lengths.<br><a target="blank" href="http://photos.bloodhorse.com/AtTheRaces-1/At-the-Races-2014/35724761_2vdnSX#!i=3017503749&k=vgtqKbZ">Order This Photo</a>

Lea won the 2014 Hal's Hope by 3 1/4 lengths.
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Coglianese Photos/Lauren King

Lea Aims to Win Second Straight Hal's Hope

Lea will start 2015 with same race he won a year ago, the Hal's Hope at Gulfstream.

After racing primarily as a grass horse early in his career, Lea  looked like he would be a major player on the dirt in 2014, when he began a promising campaign with victories in the $100,000 Hal's Hope Stakes (gr. III) and the $500,000 Donn Handicap (gr. I) at Gulfstream Park before being sidelined with an illness.

Now healthy, Lea is back to defend his title in Saturday's $150,000 Hal's Hope, one of three graded stakes offered Jan. 10 at Gulfstream.

"He seems to be doing well, but he's coming off a long layoff and coming into a stakes race," Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott said. "Obviously, it'll be a competitive spot I'm sure. We're just looking to see how he does and hoping he makes a good showing coming off a layoff."

The one-mile Hal's Hope for older horses is where Lea kicked off his 2014 campaign, rolling to a 3 1/4-length victory in his first start for Mott. The Hal's Hope was the first graded-stakes win on dirt for the chestnut son of First Samurai  after racing primarily on grass and winning the $117,100 Commonwealth Turf Stakes (gr. IIIT) in November 2012 at Churchill Downs. Four weeks later, Lea followed up his Hal's Hope victory with a track-record performance in the Donn Handicap, turning back Eclipse Award champion Will Take Charge  to win by 1 1/2 lengths in 1:46.86 to break Gulfstream's 1 1/8-mile track record.

Soon after that, Lea developed a fever in early April and was slow to recover, which forced him to miss the remainder of the 2014 season.

"It kind of lingered a little longer than we had hoped, and just nothing went smoothly when we were coming back," Mott said. "We just decided to give him extra time and sort of start all over. We could have run him late last fall in New York, and we just opted not to do it and give him the time."

Bred and owned by Adele Dilschneider and Claiborne Farm, Lea has had eight works since mid-November at Payson Park Training Center, including a three-furlong breeze from the gate in 36.40 seconds Jan. 5.

"He has been ticking right along," Mott said. "He has been on a weekly schedule and hasn't missed a beat since he has been in Florida."

The only back-to-back winner of the Hal's Hope was Chatain who won in 2007 and 2008. Joel Rosario, aboard for Lea's Donn Handicap victory, gets the return call in the Hal's Hope breaking from the rail.

Golden Lad , an E. Paul Robsham homebred trained by Todd Pletcher, will be making his first start since weakening to eighth in the $300,000 Pimlico Special (gr. III) May 16 of last year.

"He just kind of flattened out in the Pimlico Special and seemed a little jammed up coming out of it, so we decided to stop on him and give him a little break. He seems to have come back really well," Pletcher said. "He has proven on his day he's capable of running big races, and we like the way he's training, so it looks like a good place to get his season started."

The 5-year-old son of Medaglia d'Oro  captured the $200,000 Razorback Handicap (gr. III) at Oaklawn Park on March 15, 2014.

The Hal's Hope will be run as race seven with a 3:34 p.m. EST post time.

Entries: Hal's Hope S. (G3)

Gulfstream Park, Saturday, January 10, 2015, Race 7

  • Grade III
  • 1m
  • Dirt
  • $150,000
  • 4 yo's & up
  • 3:34 PM (local)
11Lea (KY)Joel Rosario123William I. Mott-
22Golden Lad (KY)John R. Velazquez123Todd A. Pletcher-
33Valid (VA)Keeneland Sales GraduateOrlando Bocachica123Marcus J. Vitali-
44Slim Shadey (GB)Luis Saez123David Jacobson-
55Prayer for Relief (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateJavier Castellano123Dale L. Romans-
66Confrontation (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateJoe Bravo119Barclay Tagg-