Silver Medallion has found a home on grass since arriving at Todd Pletcher's barn last fall, but he'll face the toughest test of his career in the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (gr. IT) Feb. 11.
Winner of the Fort Lauderdale Stakes (gr. IIIT) over the course Jan. 14 in preparation for this, Black Rock Stables' Silver Medallion faces nine rivals in the 1 1/8-mile grass event. Among others in the field are dual grade I winner Get Stormy , multiple graded stakes victor Boisterous , and grade II winner Smart Bid, who missed by a nose in last year's event. All three are returning to action after being freshened.
The Gulfstream Park Handicap is the 11th event on a 12-race card at 5:13 p.m. EST, immediately following the $500,000 Donn Handicap (gr. I). Also on the program are the Hutcheson Stakes (gr. II) for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs, and the 1 1/8-mile Suwannee River Stakes (gr. IIIT) for older fillies and mares on turf.
Formerly trained by Steve Asmussen, 4-year-old Silver Medallion has two wins, a second, and a third in four starts for his new trainer. The son of Badge of Silver captured the Tropical Turf Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Calder Casino and Race Course prior to the Ft. Lauderdale.
The bay colt was no stranger to turf while running for Asmussen, winning two of four on grass before going on the Triple Crown trail last spring. That ended with a fourth-place finish as a strong favorite in the Lexington Stakes (gr. III) at Keeneland.
In the 1 1/16-mile Ft. Lauderdale, Silver Medallion charged from the back of the pack on the far turn with a wide move and got up by a neck for jockey Javier Castellano in spite of being bumped in the stretch run.
Silver Medallion drew the rail for the Turf Handicap and will have Castellano aboard once again. Seeking his sixth lifetime win in 13 starts, Silver Medallion will carry 120 pounds.
Also coming out of the Ft. Lauderdale is the original second-place finisher, Yummy With Butter, who was demoted to sixth for interference in the stretch; and third-place Hollinger, who was moved up to second. Only two necks separated the first three finishers. Kindergarden Kid, elevated to third on the DQ, also returns in the Turf Handicap.
The 121-pound high weight is Get Stormy, last seen fading to 12th at 30-1 odds in the TVG Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) at Churchill Downs Nov. 5. Get Stormy set a pressured pace along the inside on a turf course rated "good" and was eventually eased by jockey Garrett Gomez after giving way readily. Get Stormy was 11th in the 2010 BC Mile, also at Churchill.
A 6-year-old son of Stormy Atlantic trained by Thomas Bush for Sullimar Stable, Get Stormy finished third in last year's Turf Handicap at Gulfstream, one length behind the victorious Teaks North. The speedy bay went on to capture the Maker's Mark (gr. IT) at Keeneland and Churchill's Turf Classic (gr. IT) during the spring. He has lost four in a row since.
“Although the course at Churchill is different in the spring than the fall, I can’t really give him an excuse for those (Breeders’ Cup) performances,” Bush said. “They remain a mystery to me. We’ll just have to put that behind us and look ahead to this season.”
Get Stormy, who has won 10 of 26 lifetimes races, all on turf, while earning more than $1.3 million, will be reunited with Ramon Dominguez. He guided the bay horse to victory in the Turf Classic. They break from post 7.
Also returning from a layoff is Phipps Stable's Boisterous, who concluded his 2011 campaign with back-to-back wins in Belmont Park's Knickerbocker Stakes (gr. IIT) in October and the Red Smith Handicap (gr. IIT) Nov. 5 at Aqueduct. Both victories came on turf courses that had some cut in them.
Shug McGaughey trains the 5-year-old Distorted Humor horse, a six-time winner in 14 starts. He breaks from post 5 while packing 120 pounds with regular rider John Velazquez aboard.
“He came back strong in the fall (after a fifth in the grade I Sword Dancer at Saratoga) and then got a little break at a farm in Ocala before bringing him down here,” McGaughey said.
Augustin Stable's Smart Bid, a hard-hitting 6-year-old from the Graham Motion stable, makes his first start of the year as well. The son of Smart Strike is coming off a campaign in which he won just once in eight starts -- taking the Mervin H. Muniz Jr. Memorial Handicap (gr. IIT) at Fair Grounds last March -- but also had four seconds and a third and banked nearly $600,000. He has not raced since finishing eighth as the even-money favorite in the President's Cup on a yielding course at Philadelphia's Parx Racing Sept. 17.
Smart Bid stalked the pace in last year's Turf Handicap and just missed after leading briefly in an all-out stretch fight with Teaks North. Edgar Prado retains the mount.
Chad Brown sends out Ken and Sarah Ramsey's Big Blue Kitten, a 4-year-old son of Kitten's Joy who finished a fast-closing third in an optional claiming turf race at Gulfstream Dec. 31. It was his first start since taking the Hall of Fame Stakes (gr. IIT) at Saratoga last summer.
Another contender is grade II turf winner Al Khali , making his first start since finishing third in Woodbine's Northern Dancer (Can-IT) last September for 2011 Eclipse Award-winning trainer Bill Mott.
$300,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (gr. IT, Race 11, 5:13 p.m.), 4 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Silver Medallion (KY), J Castellano, 120, T A Pletcher
2. Hollinger (ON), J Lezcano, 117, R L Attfield
3. Big Blue Kitten (KY), J R Leparoux, 116, C C Brown
4. Yummy With Butter (ON), P Lopez, 118, Y Belsoeur
5. Boisterous (KY), J R Velazquez, 120, C R McGaughey III
6. Yankee Fourtune (KY), R Maragh, 116, K P McLaughlin
7. Get Stormy (KY), R A Dominguez, 121, T M Bush
8. Kindergarden Kid (KY), J Bravo, 116, B Tagg
9. Smart Bid (PA), E S Prado, 117, H G Motion
10. Al Khali (KY), A Garcia, 119, W I Mott
Main Track Only
11. Sangaree (KY), R Maragh, 114, K P McLaughlin