Long On Value, who took last year's running of the Canadian Turf Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Gulfstream Park, looks to defend his title in this year's edition of the $150,000 contest for older turf runners going one mile Feb. 27. The 5-year-old will be toting four pounds less than when he won in 2015.
Since taking the Canadian Turf, Long On Value ran a strong third after setting the pace in the Makers 46 Mile Stakes (gr. IT) at Keeneland, then tailed off, finishing fourth in the Dixie Stakes (gr. IIT) and fifth in the Poker Stakes (gr. IIIT) last June, after which he went to the bench. He will need to be sharp off the layoff to defend successfully.
Heart to Heart is the "now" horse in here. The Brian Lynch trainee scored in the Jan. 9 Fort Lauderdale Stakes (gr. IIT) at 1 1/16 miles at Gulfstream in front-running fashion, a style he also employed in winning the River City Handicap (gr. IIIT) last November at 1 1/8 miles and the Oceanport (gr. IIIT) last August at 1 1/16 miles. The flat mile here should work to his benefit.
Avanzare brings plenty of back class to the party. He began 2015 by winning the Arcadia (gr. IIT) at a flat mile at Santa Anita Park, and came back from a seven-month break to take the Del Mar Mile (gr. IIT). His most recent race, last November in the Seabiscuit Handicap (gr. IIT) at Del Mar, was his worst to date, and he's had three months to recoup. Avanzare has won from near the lead and also from far back, so his versatility is a big tool.
An intriguing runner here is Divisidero, a lightly-raced 4-year-old who won the American Turf Stakes (gr. IIT) in just his third lifetime start. He broke his maiden on the Gulfstream lawn and came back to run a close-up third there in the Palm Beach (gr. IIIT). His most recent effort came last July 4, when he failed to challenge in the Belmont Derby (gr. I) going 10 furlongs. The Canadian Turf will be the shortest race of his career. He has trained well coming up to it and has won fresh.
Tower of Texas got good in the middle of last year, stringing together three victories in late-running fashion, the last of which came in the King Edward Stakes (Can-IIT) going a mile at Woodbine. He missed by a nose in grade II company after that, then lacked a late kick in the Woodbine Mile (Can-IT) in September, his last start.
The remainder of the field would need significant improvement to challenge. Notacatbutallama is coming off a win at Gulfstream at a mile in allowance optional claiming company, but he has raced mainly in state-bred company in New York recently without a lot of success. The 6-year-old needs to turn back the clock a bit to recover his past best form. Quality Bird has run well in allowance company but his graded efforts have seen him 7 3/4 lengths and 12 1/2 lengths in arrears. Fredericksburg has not won in nearly two years and was seven lengths off Heart to Heart in the Fort Lauderdale. Passion for Action has been competitive in graded action without breaking through, and is coming off a subpar beginning to his 2016 season when sixth in an allowance optional claimer.