Dream Run Stretching Out in Hal's Hope

(from track report)
While there's questions surrounding Saturday's $100,000 Hal's Hope Handicap (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park, the biggest one is which horse will come out of the race with the best chance to make some noise in the $500,000 Donn Handicap (gr. I) on Feb. 22.

The 1 1/16-mile Hal's Hope, which goes as the 10th race on an 11-race card, serves as a prep for the 1 1/8-mile Donn, the major Eastern handicap event of the winter. Formerly the Crème Fraiche), the race was renamed this year in honor of the 2000 Florida Derby winner who died last summer of an intestinal disorder. Hal's Hope won the Crème Fraiche last year, his final score at Gulfstream.

Saturday's race brings together a field of eight, including an entry from Buckram Oak Farm. Two of the entrants, American Style and Speed Hunter, were also entered in Friday's allowance feature.

The most immediate questions surrounding the race are whether Jack Murphy's Dream Run can stretch out successfully and whether John Oxley's Hero's Tribute is back to the form that earned him chances in grade one events as a 3-year-old.

Dream Run, a 5-year-old son of Cherokee Run trained by Paul McGee, is a dedicated sprinter. He was brilliant in his Gulfstream starts at seven furlongs last year when he blazed to an allowance triumph on Jan. 24, then ran down a good field to win the Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Sprint Championship (gr. II) on March 9.

However, Dream Run has never won beyond seven furlongs, and he gets a new rider Saturday in Cornelio Velasquez. Dream Run has been working well over the Gulfstream strip.

Hero's Tribute was one of a John Ward-trained trio that wowed the fans at Gulfstream the winter of 2001. The Sea Hero colt, now a 5-year-old, won an allowance race here in good style on Fountain of Youth Day that season and was briefly considered for the Florida Derby, but Ward had other guns at his disposal. The trainer saddled Holiday Thunder for the Fountain of Youth and held his best shot, Monarchos, for the Florida Derby. Monarchos won that race and went on to take the Kentucky Derby.

Hero's Tribute has had his progress stopped often by minor problems, but managed to win two of seven starts last year. In October, he won the Black Tie Affair Stakes at Arlington and in his last start, the Clark Handicap (gr. II) on Nov. 29, was a close third behind Lido Palace despite a poor start.

Hero's Tribute is likely to start the solid choice in this field.

Nick Zito has entered the Buckram Oak duo of American Style and Najran, and named Pat Day aboard both. The former, a 4-year-old by Quiet American who won at Gulfstream last season, was entered in Friday's feature and could go there.

Najran, a 4-year-old by Runaway Groom, has won five of eight lifetime, including the Perryville Stakes at Keeneland. In his only Gulfstream start last Jan. 25, Najran, then trained by Mohammed Moubarak, was second to the Zito-trained Governor Hickel in an allowance sprint.

Niall O'Callaghan will saddle Peter M. Crane's Hail the Chief, a 6-year-old by Be My Chief who capped a brilliant spring campaign last year with a victory in the Hawthorne Gold Cup (gr. II).

Hail the Chief was sidelined more than six months after that May 18 victory, and did not make it back to the races until Nov. 29, when he was ninth in the Clark Handicap. He has been training steadily at Payson Park and will have Jorge Chavez in the irons for Saturday's race under highweight of 116 pounds.

Dogwood Stable's Windsor Castle has been on the edge of stardom his whole career. The 5-year-old son of Lord Carson has never lived up to his promise, with just four lifetime wins in 21 starts. He has shown flashes of top form in major events, however, with a close second in the Stuyvesant Handicap (gr. III) at Aqueduct in November, and a close third in the Meadowlands Cup Handicap (gr. II) last October.

Trainer Frank Alexander, who has had Windsor Castle the last three seasons, named Eibar Coa to ride the horse for the first time.

Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens will take the blinkers off Joseph Allen's Saint Verre as he tries to get the 5-year-old back on the winning track. The son of Saint Ballado won the Cliffhanger Handicap at the Meadowlands last October, but then was a well-beaten seventh in the Sport Page Handicap (gr. III) at Aqueduct. In his most recent start on Nov. 21, Saint Verre was third in an allowance event. Jose Santos gets the call for the first time on Saint Verre.

Mansell Stables' Speed Hunter, also entered in Friday's feature, won an allowance sprint at Gulfstream last January for trainer Elliott Walden. The 4-year-old by Alydeed has not run since winning an allowance at Churchill in November. Mark Guidry rides.

$100,000 Hal's Hope Handicap, 3 & up, 1 1/16 mile
Post Horse, Weight, Jockey
1 Speed Hunter (KY), 113, Mark Guidry
2 Hero's Tribute (KY), 115, Edgar S. Prado
3 American Style (KY), 113, Pat Day
4 Windsor Castle (KY), 115, Eibar Coa
5 Hail The Chief (GB), 116, Jorge F. Chavez
6 Saint Verre (FL), 113, Jose A. Santos
7 Dream Run (KY), 112, Cornelio H. Velasquez
8 Najran (KY), 114, Pat Day