Short, long, dirt, turf—Robert LaPenta's March has done it all during his four years of racing.
A graded stakes-winning sprinter during his first two years of racing, the 6-year-old son of Blame has evolved into an accomplished turf performer who is set to compete in the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Stakes (G1T) Feb. 10 at Gulfstream Park.
"It's just a testament to his athleticism and his overall generosity as a horse," trainer Jonathan Thomas said of March's high-level performance on both dirt and turf. "These better horses are just generous horses that are giving you a lot of themselves. I'm not saying the surface is insignificant, but it takes a special horse to strive on both."
March, previously trained by Chad Brown, is scheduled to make his second start for Thomas, an up-and-coming trainer who has been enjoying considerable success the past couple of years while basing his stable at Bridlewood Farm in Ocala, Fla., where he also recruits and breaks 2-year-olds for clients.
"The horse came to us really in excellent shape, but he just needed a little time. He'd been on the go for quite some time. He laid up at Bridlewood and we gave him some time off and started him back," Thomas said. "He's been with me for about 13 months."
March came off an 11-month layoff to capture a 1 1/16-mile optional claiming allowance on the Gulfstream turf Dec. 29, rallying four wide to prevail by a length.
"As a trainer you always hope you've done your best to train them for a good effort off an extended layoff. He's a sort of horse who was always in good hands and he was super well-managed so we were getting a finished product. He's just a really cool horse, very generous, a good training horse," Thomas said. "He really makes life easy as far as being a trainer. I was more concerned if I had done enough, but he's such a class horse. That kind of shined through when he ran."
March excelled as a main-track sprinter as a 3-year-old, capturing the Bay Shore Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct Racetrack and the Woody Stephens Stakes (G2) at Belmont Park, both at the seven-furlong distance. He was switched to turf at the end of his sophomore season, finishing second, edged by Chiropractor by a head, in the 2015 Hollywood Derby (G1T) at Del Mar. His victory at Gulfstream in December was his first win on turf.
"He's really trained on well. He's had four works since he ran, three of them have been with Catholic Boy—they're actually workmates," said Thomas, who will saddle LaPenta and Madaket Stables' Catholic Boy, a graded-stakes winner on turf and dirt, for Saturday's Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs. "He had a pretty stout piece of work two weeks ago at Tampa and then he breezed a nice half on turf on the grass course at Bridlewood last week. He seems to be in a great shape. This race wasn't on our radar until he ran and came out of it well. It just makes sense to take a shot now."
Tyler Gaffalione has the return mount.
Rodney Paden's One Go All Go enters the Gulfstream Park Turf off a pair of near-misses over the local grass course, including a runner-up finish by a neck behind Shining Copper in the $200,000 Fort Lauderdale Stakes (G2T) Jan. 13.
"He beat himself," trainer Scooter Dickey said. "When he got by that horse, he threw his head up and quit running. That horse didn't come back and beat him. He let the horse come back and beat him."
Chris Landeros has the call again aboard the 6-year-old son of Fairbanks.
"I told the jock, 'Don't let him go to the front until right at the wire,'" Dickey said.
One Go All Go joined Dickey's stable after being purchased for $62,000 at the 2017 Keeneland November sale.
"We bought him because he ran third to Flatlined," said Dickey, who saddled Flatlined for a victory in the 2017 Ft. Lauderdale. "Flatlined's on the shelf right now, so he's taking his place right now."
Terry Hamilton's multiple grade 1 stakes-placed Heart to Heart, the beaten odds-on favorite in the Ft. Lauderdale, will seek to make amends Saturday. The free-running turf star reared in the starting gate and was rated to stalk the pace, eventually fading to seventh after being unable to get involved in the early pace. Trained by Brian Lynch, the 7-year-old son of English Channel has four wins over the Gulfstream grass, including the Canadian Turf Stakes (G3T) last year.
Trainer Chad Brown entered both Money Multiplier and Kurilov. Al Shahania Stud's Money Multiplier, a grade 2 stakes winner and multiple grade 1 stakes-placed finisher, is set to make his 2018 debut. The 6-year-old son of Lookin At Lucky will go over the $1 million earnings mark with at least a third-place finish.
Kurilov, a multiple grade 1 winner in Chile, is slated to make his third U.S. start for Head of Plains Partners, Spellman, Doheny, Coleman, and Stud Vendaval. The 5-year-old son of Lookin At Lucky finished third, beaten by a neck, in the ungraded Dec. 23 Queens County Stakes at Aqueduct last time out.
Bill Mott-trained Channel Maker, who finished second in the Hollywood Derby in November, is set for his season debut in the Gulfstream Park Turf. Owned by Joey Gee Thoroughbreds, Wachtel Stable and Gary Barber, the 4-year-old son of English Channel will be ridden by Nik Juarez.
The field also includes La Providencia's Hi Happy, a multiple grade 1 winner in Argentina slated to make his first start since finishing a close third in the Tokyo City Cup Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita Park in April. Phipps Stable's Revved Up, who finished third in the River City Handicap (G3T) at Churchill Downs in his 2018 finale, will be trying the Gulfstream grass for the first time.
Gulfstream Park, Saturday, February 10, 2018, Race 9
PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L 1 1Heart to Heart (ON) Julien R. Leparoux 123 Brian A. Lynch 5/2 2 2One Go All Go (VA) Chris Landeros 117 Charles L. Dickey 10/1 3 3Kurilov (CHI) Irad Ortiz, Jr. 119 Chad C. Brown 6/1 4 4Hi Happy (ARG) Luis Saez 119 Todd A. Pletcher 4/1 5 5Money Multiplier (KY) Javier Castellano 119 Chad C. Brown 3/1 6 6March (KY) Tyler Gaffalione 119 Jonathan Thomas 8/1 7 7Revved Up (KY) Edgard J. Zayas 119 Claude R. McGaughey III 15/1 8 8Channel Maker (ON) Nik Juarez 121 William I. Mott 10/1
Gulfstream Park, Saturday, February 10, 2018, Race 9