The Irish-bred Macaw, often second in major stakes, tries to get back on the winning track at Gulfstream Park Sunday. He heads a field of 13 older horses in the $100,000 Mac Diarmida Handicap (gr. IIIT) at 1 3/8 mile on the turf.
Another highlight of Sunday's 11-race card will be the fifth race, a non-winners of two allowance that drew a field of seven 3-year-olds, including the promising Stolen Time and Frisky Spider.
Macaw, who's been training at Palm Meadows for his 2004 debut, finished second in last year's running of the Mac Diarmida. That was a look at things to come for the Barclay Tagg-trained 5-year-old, who failed to win in nine starts last season, but ran second in the Sword Dancer Handicap (gr. IT), the Canadian International (Can-I) and the Red Smith 'Cap (gr. IIT).
Shaun Bridgemohan, who has been aboard Macaw in his last six starts, flies in from Aqueduct to take the mount on Macaw, who totes 117 pounds, a top weight he shares with two others in the field.
Macaw's main rival appears to be Sir Brian's Sword, a 6-year-old son of Sword Dance trained by Christophe Clement. The gelding won the Elkwood Stakes at Monmouth Park last summer, and last ran an even fourth in the 1 1/2-mile McKnight Handicap (gr. IIT) at Calder.Sir Brian's Sword has been training at Payson Park for this and gets Joe Bravo back in the boot at 113 pounds. Bravo was aboard in the Monmouth win.
The other two horses weighted at 117 are Slew Valley and Gander.
Gary Sciacca trains Slew Valley, a 7-year-old who drew the rail. Slew Valley has not started since running eighth in the Japan Cup (Jpn-I) in Tokyo on Nov. 30. Jorge Chavez, who made the trip for that race, has the call again.
Gander has three seconds in four starts on the grass, but has earned more than $1 million racing on the main track. The 8-year-old, trained by John Terranova II, ran at Gulfstream on opening day, finishing fourth behind Puzzlement in the Hal's Hope Handicap (gr. III). John Velazquez takes the mount.
The fifth race, at seven furlongs, will spotlight developing 3-year-olds. Stolen Time will be making his first start for new trainer Bill Mott after winning the Foolish Pleasure Stakes at Calder under the care of Bill White. In that Sept. 20 race, he beat Second of June, who won Gulfstream's Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III) last week.
Frisky Spider remained unbeaten in two career starts when he won an allowance race at Gulfstream on Jan. 7. He's trained by Bobby Durso, who scored a memorable upset in the 1997 Hutcheson Stakes with Frisk Me Now.
$100,000 Mac Diarmida Handicap (gr. IIIT), 3 & up, 1 3/8 mile on turf
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Slew Valley (MD), 117, Jorge F. Chavez
2. Macaw (IRE), 117, Shaun Bridgmohan
3. Prodigus (BRZ), 114, Manoel R. Cruz
4. Newfoundland (KY), 116, John R. Velazquez
5. Sforza (FR), 114, Cornelio H. Velasquez
6. Spanish Spur (GB), 112, Rene R. Douglas
7. Sir Brian's Sword (FL), 113, Joe Bravo
8. Request for Parole (KY), 115, Jose A. Santos
9. Mark One (KY), 114, Eibar Coa
10. In Hand (KY), 112, Craig Perret
11. Gander (NY), 117, John R. Velazquez
12. Bicentennial (NY), 112, Edgar S. Prado
AE Office Ghost (KY), 112, Julio A. Garcia