Mshawish will try the dirt again in the Hal's Hope Stakes.<br><a target="blank" href="">Order This Photo</a>

Mshawish will try the dirt again in the Hal's Hope Stakes.
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Coglianese Photos/Lauren King

Mshawish Stays on Dirt for Hal's Hope

Jan. 9 start to determine whether Medaglia d'Oro runner targets Donn (gr. I).

Al Shaqab Racing's Mshawish , a multiple stakes winner on turf, will get another opportunity to transfer that form to the dirt Jan. 9 in the $150,000 Hal's Hope Stakes (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park.

The 26th running of the one-mile Hal's Hope for 4-year-olds and older is one of three stakes on the 11-race Saturday program, along with the $200,000 Fort Lauderdale (gr. IIT) for 4-year-olds and up and the $150,000 Marshua's River (gr. IIIT) for females 4 and up, both going 1 1/16 miles on the grass.

A 5-year-old son of Medaglia d'Oro , Mshawish made his first North American dirt start in his most recent outing, the Cigar Mile (gr. I) Nov. 28 at Aqueduct Racetrack. In that race he settled off the lead before making a four-wide move heading into the stretch to get within a head of the lead and wound up fourth, beaten 1 1/2 lengths.

Mshawish has worked three times since arriving in South Florida last month, including a bullet half-mile breeze in :48.30 Jan. 3 at Palm Beach Downs for trainer Todd Pletcher.

"We wanted to give him another try on the dirt. I think this race will define kind of which direction we're going," Pletcher said. "I thought his Cigar Mile was good, but he also has a good record on the turf. I figured if we run in the Hal's Hope we'll make a decision whether we should go in the Donn or the Gulfstream Park turf race, and we're also hoping to go back to Dubai with him. He was third in the turf race there last year. This race will kind of clarify which direction to go and which surface to go on."

The $500,000 Donn Handicap (gr. I), the first major race for older horses in the country, and the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (gr. IT) are both scheduled for Feb. 6. Undefeated in three starts at Gulfstream, Mshawish is the defending Turf Handicap champion, having also won the Fort Lauderdale and El Prado.

Championship Meet-leading jockey Javier Castellano has been aboard for all three of his Gulfstream wins as well as the Cigar Mile, gets a return call from post three.

"He loves the turf here, but at the same time he's trained so well on the dirt that we finally had to give it a try," Pletcher said. "In the Cigar Mile, I thought at the eighth pole that he was going to win and he just kind of flattened out a little bit. We have to get a line on it and see how he likes the dirt here."

Mshawish will find a familiar foe in the Hal's Hope in Shadwell Stable's Matrooh, who finished third in the Cigar Mile, three-quarters of a length ahead of Mshawish. Trained by Chad Brown, the gelded 5-year-old son of Distorted Humor  won the seven-furlong Bold Ruler (gr. III) Oct. 31 at Belmont Park.

"He ran terrific in the Cigar Mile. I was very proud of his effort," Brown said. "He's trained well since being transferred to South Florida and I'm looking forward to running him in the Hal's Hope."

Matrooh made his North American debut last March at Gulfstream, winning a one-mile optional claiming allowance. He won two of his subsequent three starts before making his stakes debut in the 1 1/8-mile Iselin (gr. III) at Monmouth Park, where he was sixth.

"He's in good form right now, so we're just continuing on," Brown said. "He's always been a great work horse on dirt. It seems like all his one-turn races are his best races. That's really been the key to him. He's a well-bred, good-looking horse that trains strong and he's grade I-placed. I think he's a legitimate grade I horse."

Irad Ortiz Jr. will ride from post one.

Crossed Sabres Farm's Valid returns to his favorite track in the Hal's Hope. He has won three of his past four starts, including a 3 1/2-length victory in the Iselin and back-to-back stakes triumphs at Gulfstream in the Sept. 26 Groomstick and Dec. 12 Harlan's Holiday.

Another multiple graded stakes-winning son of Medaglia d'Oro, Valid is nine-for-12 lifetime at Gulfstream with six wins, and he has two wins, a second and a third from five starts over the course.

"Not that he does bad anywhere else but he probably does a little better over this surface. I know he started in New York and came down here young, but who knows the formula. He's doing good and we're looking forward to this weekend," trainer Marcus Vitali said. "I was thinking this race all along. I love how he's coming into it. If he stays healthy and trains like he's training, we're going to take our shot."

Valid will carry Luis Saez and co-highweight of 123 pounds from post four.

Also entered are Pegasus (gr. III) winner Mr. Jordan, third after setting the pace in the Harlan's Holiday off a 4 1/2-month layoff; multiple stakes winner Grande Shores, second in the Mr. Prospector (gr. III) Dec. 19; and Midnight Cello, winner of the Hanshin (gr. III) last summer on the all-weather track at Arlington International Racecourse for trainer Mike Tomlinson.

Entries: Hal's Hope S. (G3)

Gulfstream Park, Saturday, January 09, 2016, Race 7

  • Grade III
  • 1m
  • Dirt
  • $150,000
  • 4 yo's & up
  • 3:05 PM (local)
11Matrooh (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateIrad Ortiz, Jr.119Chad C. Brown9/5
22Mr. Jordan (FL)Joe Bravo119Edward Plesa, Jr.6/1
33Mshawish (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateJavier Castellano119Todd A. Pletcher8/5
44Valid (VA)Keeneland Sales GraduateLuis Saez123Marcus J. Vitali3/1
55Grande Shores (FL)Edgard J. Zayas119Stanley I. Gold15/1
66Midnight Cello (KY)Tyler Gaffalione123Michael A. Tomlinson20/1