Man From Wicklow the Pan American Pick

Richard A. Violette Jr.'s Man From Wicklow, currently in the best form of his career, will shoulder the top impost of 122 pounds as the favorite in Saturday's $200,000 Pan American Handicap (gr. IIT) at Gulfstream Park at 1 1/2 mile on the turf.

In his last start Feb. 16 in the Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IT) at a distance of a furlong less, Man From Wicklow showed his sharp form. He was allowed to settle early, angled to the outside to challenge in the stretch run, took command inside the final furlong and drew off to tally by 4 3/4 lengths.

Before that, in Calder's William L. McKnight Handicap (gr. IIT) Dec. 28, the Turkoman gelding was forced to steady in the early going of the 12-furlong event but recovered to run down rivals in the late stages to win by a length at the wire.

Man From Wicklow, who is trained by his owner, will be ridden again by Jerry Bailey, who was aboard for both of the 6-year-old Florida-bred's recent scores.

George and Sandra Melillo's Macaw, a 4-year-old Irish-bred, could provide strong competition for Man From Wicklow. Although winless in four starts in this country, the Barclay Tagg trainee showed his best American effort here at Gulfstream Jan. 19. He came from well back to gain the runner-up spot in the Mac Diarmida Handicap (gr. IIIT) while beaten by 1 1/2 length by the front-running Riddlesdown.

Previously, the son of the Storm Bird sire Bluebird out of a Rainbow Quest mare was ninth in Calder's McKnight, but only beaten four lengths by Man From Wicklow despite being forced to steady. The four-pound spread between the two rivals in the McKnight will be increased to six in the Pan Am. The Irish-bred carries 116, including jockey Jose Santos.

Before coming to the United States last summer, Macaw won the Seabeach Handicap at Goodwood and the Lion Sports Trophy Rated Handicap at Newmarket during a British campaign. After arriving on this side of the Atlantic, Macaw was third in the Jamaica Handicap (gr. IIT) at Belmont in his American debut Sept. 22 and then a good third beaten by only two lengths in Arlington's Paradise Creek Stakes Oct. 24.

Mr. Livingston deserves consideration. Although fourth in his seasonal bow Feb. 17 in the allowance ranks, the son of El Prado was a good third, beaten 3 1/2 lengths in the 2002 Pan American. He followed that outing with a tally in Calder's Jackie Wackie Handicap last April. After finishing eighth in Monmouth's Red Bank Handicap (gr. IIIT) May 25, the gray 6-year-old was given the rest of the year off before returning in his most recent effort locally.

South Florida-based horseman Bill Kaplan trains Mr. Livingston, who is owned by Teresa and David Palmer.

Generous Rosi is entered as a dirt only contestant.

Just Listen, second in the Gulfstream Breeders' Cup, and Whata Brainstorm, seventh in the same race, are also top contenders.

Just Listen was third in the Mac Diarmida (gr. IIIT) before his last start.

Whata Brainstorm won the 2001 Pan Am. He finished fourth in Fair Grounds' Mardi Gras Handicap most recently, a race switched from the turf to the main track.

$200,000 Pan American Handicap (gr. IIT), 3 & up, 1 1/2 mile on turf
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. North of Six (KY), 109, Aurelio Toribio, Jr.
2. Just Listen (KY), 114, Rosemary B. Homeister, Jr.
3. Quest Star (KY), 113, Edgar S. Prado
4. Reduit (GB), 113, Mark Guidry
5. *Generous Rosi (GB), 115, Christopher P. DeCarlo
6. Mr. Livingston (KY), 113, Cornelio H. Velasquez
7. Man From Wicklow (FL), 122, Jerry D. Bailey
8. Mr. Pleasentfar (BRZ), 114, Roger I. Velez
9. Whata Brainstorm (FL), 114, Gary Boulanger
10. Macaw (IRE), 116, Jose A. Santos
11. Serial Bride (KY), 115, Eibar Coa
(*) Main Track Only