Australian-born conditioner Ian Wilkes, who began his own training career New Year's Day after serving as an assistant to Carl Nafzger for 13 years, saddled the winners of three straight races at Gulfstream Park Thursday, the last one establishing a track record.
"This is like a dream," said Wilkes in the winner's circle following the third victory. "Hopefully, I won't wake up." The 40-year-old trainer also saddled a pair of winners last week at Gulfstream but was quick to divert some credit to his mentor Nafzger, who saddled Unbridled to win the 1990 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I)."Carl and I have been together a long time," said Wilkes, "but he wants to start scaling back. This is a wonderful opportunity for me, and also for my wife Tracey. It has always been a team effort with all of us, and it all works out when you have days like this."
Wilkes' triple began with Atlas Valley in the seventh race, continued with Candy Ma'am in the eighth, and concluded with Bucharest in the ninth. The latter is a 4-year-old colt by Victory Gallop who races in the silks of Buckram Oak Farm. He established a track record of 1:21.57 for the seven furlongs at Gulfstream Park, eclipsing the mark set by Sir Shackleton last year.