Gem Stables' grad I winner J P's Gusto posted a good-looking breeze on a windy morning at Oaklawn Park March 5 as he prepares for the $300,000 Rebel Stakes (gr. II) March 19.
Under Oaklawn's leading jockey Cliff Berry, the 3-year-old son of Successful Appeal logged six furlongs in 1:13 3/5 over a track that was drying quickly from overnight rains. It was his first breeze since finishing a troubled second in the $250,000 Southwest Stakes (gr. III) at Oaklawn Feb. 21.
"That's a good work for him when he's working by himself," said trainer Joe Petalino immediately after the breeze. "He's got an even-running style and a big stride. He's going good right now."
Clockers caught the winner of last year's Del Mar Futurity (gr. I) through an opening quarter in :25 and a half-mile in :49 1/5. Their watches indicated a final quarter in :24 2/5. The ridgling broke off at the six-furlong pole and had a considerable tail wind down the backstretch. He zipped around the turn and changed leads smoothly once turned back into the wind in the stretch. Berry was surprised by how quickly J P's Gusto eased up during the gallop out, but Petalino was reassuring.
"He's getting pretty smart," Petalino told Berry meeting up at the barn. "He was by himself and he knew he was done once he got past the wire. I think he wants and is going to need something to shoot at when he's out there to keep him going."
"I liked how he got a little faster in every quarter," said Berry, who solidified his lead in the standings with a riding triple March 4. "You always enjoy getting on horses like this. He started off kind of medium, but then picked it up as we went along."
J P's Gusto was ridden by 2010 Eclipse champion Ramon Dominguez for the first time in the Southwest, but that rider has also been aboard or is scheduled to ride three other hopefuls on the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) trail in the coming weeks. Petalino expects to hear some time this weekend if Dominguez will be back in Hot Springs in two weeks. Meanwhile, Petalino was happy with J P Gusto's work and is drawing up plans for the next major event before the Rebel.
"This was about as good as what he did in his last breeze before the race," he said. "We’ll look for a sharper five-eighths next time before we run, and I went today to give myself a day or so to play with in case of bad weather."
In other 3-year-old Oaklawn news, Northern California trainer Jeff Bonde, who engineered an upset with Sierra Sunset in the 2008 Rebel, said he plans to ship San Vicente Stakes (gr. II) runner-up Sway Away for the Rebel.
Owned by Batman Stable and partners, 3-year-old Sway Away was closing fast on highly ranked The Factor in the his last start at seven furlongs. The Rebel will be the first chance for the son of 2005 Arkansas Derby (gr. I) winner Afleet Alex to race around two turns. Regular rider Garrett Gomez, who won last year's Rebel aboard Lookin At Lucky , is expected to be back aboard.
Bonde says the horse’s sire and running style make Oaklawn the obvious choice for the colt’s next prep.
“He has a pedigree that says he’s going to run all day,” Bonde said. “With the way he trains I don’t see any problems for him stretching out at all.”
Sway Away worked March 4 at Santa Anita Park, going a handy five furlongs in 1:02 4/5 under Gomez.