Thorn Song scored his first graded win in the River City (gr. III-T) at Churchill Downs in November.

Thorn Song scored his first graded win in the River City (gr. III-T) at Churchill Downs in November.

Four Footed Fotos

Thorn Song a Major Threat on Turf

The 5-year-old turf specialist goes for a victory in the Canadian Turf at Gulfstream.

Entering off of his first career graded stakes score, Zayat Stables’ Thorn Song looks to keep the momentum going Jan. 4 at Gulfstream Park when he takes on a full field in the $100,000 Canadian Turf Handicap (gr. IIIT).

The Canadian, a 1 1/16-mile turf event for older horses, is the first graded stakes event of Gulfstream's 89-day meet.

A 5-year-old horse by Unbridled's Song, Thorn Song had a remarkable turnaround during his 4-year-old campaign, resurrecting a racing career that seemed to be on the fast track to nowhere. The breakthrough year, which included four wins and a pair of seconds since June, was all due to a change of surface.

Trained by Dale Romans, Thorn Song began his career by racing on dirt, without success. Winless in his first seven starts, the horse was switched to grass last summer, and like a light bulb, instantly turned it on.

After breaking his maiden on the grass at Churchill Downs June 13, Thorn Song followed that up with a pair of allowance victories at Saratoga. The three consecutive wins saw him flash early speed, something he had not done much of on the main track.

"It turned out to be a good decision," said Romans on Thorn Song's move to the grass. "He was training a lot better than he was running, so I knew something needed to be done. I thought maybe he would like the grass more since had a little pedigree for it. I just had a feeling that he would do better with a change."

In September, Thorn Song narrowly missed in another allowance race at Belmont, then was only a length back in his initial graded stakes try, the Oct. 28 Knickerbocker Handicap (gr. IIIT) on the Aqueduct turf. Less than a month later Thorn Song went back to the Churchill grass and scored in the River City Handicap (gr. IIIT), stalking the pace under Kent Desormeaux and then rallying late to get up by a half length.

Out of the Storm Bird mare Festal, Thorn Song, the 4-1 morning line second choice, has done no worse than second in six turf starts. Bred in Kentucky by Pinnacle Racing and Taylor Made, he has earned $312,110. Breaking from post six and carrying a co-high weight of 116 pounds, Desormeaux will ride again.

"He has controllable speed; he can sit off it or go right to the lead," Romans said. "I'll let Kent decide. The sky is the limit with this horse. We don't know how good he can be. We'll wait and see what happens in this one and then go from there."

Competition could come from Dennis Punches’ Jet Propulsion, who was sixth in last year’s Canadian Turf. The 5-year-old gelding by Double Honor has won a pair of stakes since that race, both at Calder Race Course. One of the victories was April 28 in the Miami Mile Breeders’ Cup Handicap (gr. IIIT), when he went gate-to-wire for his first graded stakes triumph.

Jet Propulsion, who will break from post seven with Eduardo Nunez aboard, also led from start to finish Sept. 3 in the 1 1/16-mile Carterista Handicap. He has been unplaced in his last two efforts, but led into the stretch in the 1 1/8-mile Bonnie Heath Turf Cup Nov. 11, before tiring in the final sixteenth.

South Africa-bred National Captain should also be considered. The 6-year-old horse raced most of his career in South Africa and United Arab Emirates, winning just twice in 14 starts. But since coming to the United States last summer he has been very competitive for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, winning a pair of allowance starts in New York before finishing sixth in the Knickerbocker.

Last out, in the Dec. 1 Tropical Turf Handicap (gr. IIIT), National Captain missed by only a neck after flying late in the stretch for Jose Lezcano.

Host, who was second by a head in last year’s Canadian Turf, has been installed as the 3-1 betting favorite despite having won just once since then. Bred in Chile, Host was fifth in the Oct. 27 NetJets Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT) and most recently, eighth in the Tropical Turf. The 8-year-old was recently sold by Eugene Melnyk to an Australian group and is now trained by Tom Albertrani.

Twelve horses are entered, in addition to also-eligible Delosvientos and Main Track Only entry Merchant Marine.

$100,000 Canadian Turf Handicap (gr. IIIT, Race 7, 4 p.m.), Four-Year-Olds & Up, 1 1/16 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Imawildandcrazyguy (FL), 113, Manoel Cruz
2. Kiss the Kid (KY), 116, Eddie Castro
3. True to Tradition (KY), 113, Rene Douglas
4. Yate's Black Cat (KY), 113, Edgar Prado
5. Host (CHI), 116, John Velazquez
6. Thorn Song (KY), 116, Kent Desormeaux
7. Jet Propulsion (FL), Eduardo Nunez
8. Big Prairie (KY), 111, Javier Castellano
9. Baron Von Tap (KY), 114, Elvis Trujillo
10. French Vintage (FL), 110, Joe Bravo
11. National Captain (SAF), 114, Jose Lezcano
12. Dreadnaught (KY), 112, Eibar Coa
AE Delosvientos (KY), 110, David Boraco
MTO Merchant Marine (KY), 111, Cornelio Velazquez