For as well as he has run in his career, it’s easy to forget that Force Freeze is not yet a graded stakes winner. The 6-year-old gelding will finally try to change that tag Feb. 18 when he makes his season debut in the $150,000 Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship (gr. II).
The gelding by Forest Camp will face seven in the seven-furlong main track event. Among his top challengers are grade I winner Capt. Candyman Can, recent allowance winner Simba's Story, and the clearly improving 4-year-old Troilus, who has won three straight races in South Florida.
Post time for the Saturday feature is set for 4:45 p.m. EST.
Force Freeze has earned more than $760,000 and has been group/graded stakes-placed four times in his 21-start career, including his final two tries of 2011 when he was a close second in both the Vosburgh Invitational and Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Sprint (both gr. I). In the latter he was beaten a neck by Amazombie, who went on to be named champion sprinter.
Owned by Saeed Naser Al Romaithi, Force Freeze spent all of 2009-2010 and the first part of 2011 in Dubai, where he won three times. Since shipping back to the U.S., he has been trained by Peter Walder. His biggest win came in the Teddy Drone Stakes at Monmouth Park in July upon his return.
Walder has lined up Paco Lopez to ride Force Freeze, who has never raced at seven furlongs. They will break from post 8.
“I love the eight-hole. It will allow us to sit and stalk. I’m using this race to tell me where I’m going with him,” said Walder, who has penciled in either the seven-furlong Churchill Downs (gr. II) on May 7 or the six-furlong Count Fleet (gr. III) at Oaklawn Park on April 14 for Force Freeze’s second start. “I’m not looking for him to go as far as he can, as fast as he can. I’m looking for him to rate a little bit in this race to see if we’re going seven-eighths or cutting back to three-quarters.”
Ian Wilkes trainee Capt. Candyman Can will look to regain his form from 2009 when he won three graded races including the NetJets King’s Bishop (gr. I) at Saratoga and the Hutcheson (gr. II) at Gulfstream. The now 6-year-old Candy Ride gelding did win a pair of minor stakes last year after missing all of 2010 due to injury, but was unable to break through in his three graded attempts. Included in those was a fourth-place finish earlier in the current Gulfstream meet in the Dec. 31 Mr. Prospector (gr. III).
The consistent Capt. Candyman Can is 8-2-2 from 17 lifetime starts with earnings of $765,147. Leading Gulfstream rider Javier Castellano has picked up the mount.
E. Paul Robsham’s homebred Simba’s Story won a one-mile allowance race on Jan. 22 in his 4-year-old debut, three weeks after setting the pace but missing by a length in a sprint over the same track. The front-running son of Elusive Quality is spending his first winter in Florida for leading trainer Todd Pletcher after beginning his career in New York. This will be his stakes debut. John Velazquez will have the mount.
Peachtree Stable’s Troilus has stepped his game for trainer Marty Wolfson since shipping to Florida from New York last fall. The 4-year-old Speightstown colt is unbeaten in three starts since that time, including a maiden breaker at Calder in October, and consecutive decisive optional claimers at the current Gulfstream meet. Both of the Gulfstream victories were at one mile, including a Jan. 1 win where he defeated Endorsement by 1 3/4 lengths.
Wolfson has assigned the mount to Elvis Trujillo.
The 119-pound high weights are Decisive Moment, who won the Delta Mile in November, and Amanecer de Oro, an Afternoon Deelites colt entering off a victory in the Louisiana Champions Day Sprint in December at Fair Grounds.
$150,000 Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship (gr. II, Race 10, 4:45 p.m.), 4 & Up, 7 Furlongs (Dirt) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer 1. Bold Warrior (KY), J Lezcano, 117, H A Jerkens
2. Capt. Candyman Can (KY), J Castellano, 117, I R Wilkes
3. Decisive Moment (FL), S O Madrid, 119, J D Arias
4. Amanecer de Oro (LA), J L Castanon, 119, S Duke
5. Dixie Slam (KY), D Centeno, 117, A Cioffi
6. Troilus (KY), 4/C L E Trujillo, 117, M D Wolfson
7. Simba's Story (KY), J R Velazquez, 117, T A Pletcher
8. Force Freeze (KY), P Lopez, 117, P R Walder