Hook and Ladder aims to maintain his perfect record over the Gulfstream Park track against eight foes Sunday in the $100,000 Deputy Minister Handicap (gr. III) at six and a half furlongs. The 13th running of the Deputy Minister offers a winner's prize of $60,000 and drew a field of nine, three of them unbeaten over the track.
Hook and Ladder, owned by Mary and Chester Broman, is expected to be a short-priced favorite to add the Deputy Minister to his list of Gulfstream credits. The John Kimmel-trained 5-year-old is coming off a three and a quarter-length score in the Mr. Prospector Handicap (gr. III) on Jan. 13, his fourth win over the Gulfstream track without a defeat.
Last winter, the son of Dixieland Band won three races in Hallandale, including the Grade II Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Sprint Championship.
John Velazquez, who was aboard in Hook and Ladder's last win, gets a return call as the favorite totes topweight of 119 pounds Sunday.
But Hook and Ladder will have to watch out for another horse with a perfect Gulfstream record –- M. Malamuth's Explicit. The Ian Jory-trained 5-year-old was shipped from California for this race after two losing starts at California. Last year, Jory shipped Explicit east for a race on the Florida Derby Day undercard, and the son of Distant View rolled to an eight and a half-length score in the Ridan Stakes, getting six furlongs in 1:09 flat.
In fact, that score was the only one Explicit managed for the entire 2001 season, and Jory is coming back to see if lightning can strike twice. Mark Guidry gets the riding assignment for the first time as Explicit carries 116.
Donamire Farm's Twilight Road is also perfect at Gulfstream. The Paul McGee-trained runner is coming off a big score on the track and bears watching as he goes for his first stakes victory. The 5-year-old son of Cahill Road came out blazing in his seasonal debut Jan. 16, running off to a seven-length score in a seven-furlong allowance/optional claimer.
Last season, Twilight Road moved through his conditions while racing in the Midwest, scoring at Churchill Downs and Arlington Park. McGee has given the return riding call to Rene Douglas as Twilight Road totes 113, his lowest impost in two years.
Fappie's Notebook, trained by Manny Tortora, returns to a sprint after running fifth behind Sir Bear and Red Bullet in the grade III Skip Away Handicap on Jan. 12. The 5-year-old son of Notebook, who runs for Marjorie and I.M. Cowan, is much better sprinting than going two turns and gets Jorge Chavez back in the irons for Sunday's stake. Fappie's Notebook was second to Istintaj in last year's running of the Deputy Minister.
Shively and Walderon's Personal First, a graded stakes winner as a 3-year-old in 2000, will be looking for his first Gulfstream score in Sunday's sprint. The 5-year-old by Personal Hope, trained by Dave Paulus, has not raced at Gulfstream since the winter of 2000, when he was second to Hal's Hope in the grade III Holy Bull Stakes. Personal First, who comes in off a third in the Forego Stakes at Turfway Park two weeks ago, will have Eibar Coa in the irons at 113.
Rudy Wolfendale will saddle R. Bakerman's Kipperscope, who pulled off a surprise last out with a second-place finish behind Hook and Ladder in the Mr. Prospector. The 5-year-old son of Kipper Kelly was 15-1 that day when he held the place by nearly three lengths over Red's Honor. Cornelio Velasquez has the mount again at 114.
McKee Stables Inc.'s Red's Honor, beaten six lengths in the Mr. Prospector, gets in at 113 Sunday with Edgar Prado taking over the reins for the first time. The 4-year-old by Glitterman won six races for trainer Dale Romans last year.
The others entered are Jim Tafel's Binthebest, 112, Jon Court, who was 12 lengths behind Twilight Road last out; and Lazy F Ranch's Honorifico, 112, Jose Santos, an Argentine-bred who has not been out since he won at Belmont in September.