Graded stakes winners Cool Coal Man and Grasshopper drew the top weight assignments as part of a contentious field for the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. II) March 13.
Four other graded winners -- This Ones for Phil, Le Grand Cru, Harlem Rocker, and Motovato -- are among the 11 entered for the one-turn mile event, the 10th race on the Gulfstream Park program with a probable post of 5:43 p.m. EST.
Cool Coal Man and Grasshopper are each weighted at 118 pounds, just one more than Harlem Rocker and This Ones for Phil.
Trained by Nick Zito, Robert LaPenta's Cool Coal Man won the 2008 Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) and adores Gulfstream Park, where he has captured four of five starts in his career. The only stumble at the South Florida track for the 5-year-old son of Mineshaft came in last year's Gulfstream Park Handicap, when he tired to fifth as the favorite in a race won by Smooth Air.
Off since last October, Cool Coal Man returned to action at Gulfstream Jan. 22, handily defeating four rivals in an optional claiming allowance going seven furlongs. Eddie Casto replaces regular rider John Velazquez this time and they'll break from post 9. Cool Coal Man enters the fray with nine wins in 23 starts and earnings of $790,631.
Grasshopper, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin for W.S. Farish, Edward Hudson Jr., and Inwood Stable, also comes off an optional claiming win at Gulfstream Feb. 3 when he defeated Gentleman James by a neck in a stretch duel at one mile. Off before that race since last April, it was the first victory in two years for the 6-year-old Dixie Union horse. He was limited to just three starts in 2009.
Winner of the 2008 Mineshaft Handicap (gr. III) at Fair Grounds, Grasshopper has been a consistent runner against top quality opposition in his career. His lifetime mark stands at 5-6-2 in 18 races with earnings of $846,152. The dark bay drew post 8 with Alan Garcia aboard.
McLaughlin also entered Darley Stable's Past the Point, shortening up a bit after tiring to sixth in the Donn Handicap (gr. I) Feb. 6.
Harlem Rocker, from the Todd Pletcher stable, has raced just twice since his disqualification from victory in the Cigar Mile Handicap (gr. I) at Aqueduct in November 2008. He was out for almost a full year when he was beaten by a head while finishing second in an optional claiming race at Churchill Downs.
In his only start this year, Harlem Rocker was bumped in the stretch and tired late when running fourth, seven lengths behind Quality Road , in the one-mile Hal's Hope (gr. III) at Gulfstream Jan. 3. Eibar Coa retains the mount aboard Stronach Stables' 5-year-old Ontario homebred son of Macho Uno .
The crack sprinter This Ones for Phil will be asked to stretch out a bit by trainer Richard Dutrow Jr., following a nose victory in the Sunshine Millions Sprint at Gulfstream Jan. 30 in his most recent start. The 4-year-old Untuttable gelding won the seven-furlong Swale Stakes (gr. II) over the track on the disqualification of Big Drama last spring and followed that effort with a runner-up finish in the one-mile Withers Stakes (gr. III) at Aqueduct.
This Ones for Phil is three-for-four at Gulfstream and enters with six wins in 15 starts overall and earnings of $493,360. Velazquez, who rode the Florida-bred chestnut in the Sunshine Millions, sticks with him here for owners Paul Pompa Jr., Jack Mandato, and Michael Dubb. They break from the far outside.
Le Grand Cru switches from the turf back to the main track for trainer Allen Jerkens following a fifth-place effort in the Canadian Turf (gr. IIIT) at Gulfstream Feb. 20. The 5-year-old son of Dynaformer won the Kelso (gr. III) and Bold Ruler (gr. III) handicaps in back-to-back style in New York last fall.
Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship (gr. II) winner Munnings was not entered back by Pletcher, but the next three finishers from that Feb. 13 race are. Congressional Page, Motovato and Inkado (in that order) were separated by just two noses while finishing one length behind the top horse last time.
Congressional Page won the Shaefer Mile at Hoosier Park last fall for trainer Michael Trombetta, while the Michelle Nihei-conditioned Inkado looks for his first stakes win.
Motovato, meanwhile, had a tough trip in the Sprint Championship for trainer Marty Wolfson. He broke in the air and was left at the start, and was forced to rally five wide around the far turn and into the stretch. A 5-year-old son of Proud Citizen, Motovato has since been sold privately by the Estate of Edmund Gann to Team Valor International and Gary Barber with Wolfson retained as trainer.
Wolfson also entered the regally-bred You and I Forever for the Gann Estate. The 5-year-old by A.P. Indy out of the Test (gr. I) winner You, ran second in the Hal's Hope to begin the season but failed to fire when seventh in the Sprint Championship.
Southern California-based Supreme Summit ships in for trainer Doug O'Neill following a third-place showing in the seven-furlong San Carlos Handicap (gr. II) on Santa Anita's synthetic track Feb. 20.
$300,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. II, Race 10, 5:43 p.m.), 4 & Up, 1 Mile (Dirt)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Congressional Page (KY), C H Marquez, Jr., 116, M J Trombetta
2. Past the Point (KY), E S Prado, 115, K P McLaughlin
3. Le Grand Cru (KY), C H Velasquez, 115, H A Jerkens
4. Motovato (KY), E Trujillo, 116, M D Wolfson
5. Harlem Rocker (ON), E Coa, 117, T A Pletcher
6. Supreme Summit (KY), P Lopez, 114, D F O'Neill
7. Inkado (KY), J L Castanon, 114, M Nihei
8. Grasshopper (KY), A Garcia, 118, K P McLaughlin
9. Cool Coal Man (KY), E Castro, 118, N P Zito
10. You and I Forever (KY), J Castellano, 116, M D Wolfson
11. This Ones for Phil (FL), J R Velazquez, 117, R E Dutrow, Jr.