Starlight Racing's Sombeyay, who became a graded stakes winner on a second surface last time out, can add to his growing turf résumé when he returns to Gulfstream Park March 28 for the $100,000 Appleton Stakes (G3).
The one-mile Appleton for 4-year-olds and up is part of a 14-race program that includes 10 stakes, six graded, highlighted by the Curlin Florida Derby (G1), one of the country's premier Triple Crown preps.
Due to health and safety protocols, Gulfstream Park continues to race without spectators. Fans can live stream the action on the track's website and other online wagering sites.
Sombeyay began his career on the dirt, winning the Sanford Stakes (G3) and placing fourth in the Hopeful Stakes (G1) in the summer of 2018 at Saratoga Race Course. He made two starts last year before trainer Todd Pletcher put him on turf in the 5 1/2-furlong Quick Call Stakes (G3T), also at the Spa, where he was fourth over a yielding course.
Pletcher gave Sombeyay a break following a nose loss to Casa Creed in the one-mile National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes (G2T) in August, and the bay colt didn't return until opening his 4-year-old campaign Jan. 26 with a runner-up finish in a 7 1/2-furlong optional claiming race on firm turf at Gulfstream.
The effort earned Sombeyay another shot at graded competition on the turf, and he responded with a determined one-length triumph in the one-mile Canadian Turf Stakes (G3T) Jan. 26.
"He seems to really like the course here and I think the distance suits him well. He's been a pretty consistent performer and seems to show up every time and give us a good effort," Pletcher said. "He's won graded-stakes on two different surfaces now, and that's hard to do. He seems to have kind of found his home on the turf so we plan on keeping him on it for the time being, but he consistently runs well under any conditions."
Luis Saez will ride Sombeyay from post 10 as the co-highweight under 124 pounds.
Pletcher also entered stakes winners Social Paranoia and Halladay, the latter listed as the second of four also-eligibles in an overflow field of 12. The Elkstone Group's Social Paranoia has not raced since his half-length victory in the 1 5/16-mile Dueling Grounds Derby Sept. 8, and has placed in four graded-stakes including the Belmont Derby Invitational (G1T) in July.
"He's a quality horse and he's coming off a big win in Kentucky," Pletcher said. "He ran very well first time off a little bit of a layoff at Gulfstream last year. While he still has some allowance conditions left, we just felt like we'd go ahead and give it a try in here and hopefully get his year under way. I think he's the kind of horse that could have a very productive season."
Trainer Graham Motion entered a pair in English Bee and Regally Irish, who is listed as the third also-eligible. Calumet Farm homebred English Bee, winner of the New Kent County Virginia Derby (G3T) at Colonial Downs, was second by a half-length to Sombeyay in the Canadian Turf.
"English Bee is coming off a pretty solid effort. I would say it was his best race to date. I'm a little reluctant to run him back so quickly, but with the scenario that we have right now it's also hard to pass up on a race when you don't know when you're going to be running again," Motion said.
"That was a much deeper group than he has had to compete against or that he's been able to compete against before," he added. "I think the mile and maybe the turf course and a really good ride all kind of played into it. I really like this horse. He's a blue-collar, hard-knocking, tough little horse and I was really tickled to see him run so well last time."
Defending Appleton winner Dr. Edgar, who carries the co-topweight will return in the 2020 edition. Other contenders include 2019 Woodbine Mile (G1) winner El Tormenta, unraced since finishing sixth in the Nov. 2 Breeders' Cup Mile (G1T); the 2019 Wise Dan (G2) and 2020 Sunshine Millions Turf winner March to the Arch; and 2017 Poker (G3) winner Ballagh Rocks, who brings an allowance optional claiming race score into Saturday's test.
Gulfstream Park, Saturday, March 28, 2020, Race 13
PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L 1 1English Bee (KY) Manuel Franco 122 H. Graham Motion 8/1 2 2Hembree (KY) Joel Rosario 120 Michael J. Maker 12/1 3 3March to the Arch (FL) Tyler Gaffalione 122 Mark E. Casse 8/1 4 4Ballagh Rocks (KY) Edgard J. Zayas 120 William I. Mott 6/1 5 5Maraud (KY) Dylan Davis 120 Joseph F. Orseno 10/1 6 6Smart Remark (KY) Chris Landeros 118 Victoria H. Oliver 20/1 7 7Social Paranoia (KY) Javier Castellano 122 Todd A. Pletcher 10/1 8 8Dr. Edgar (KY) Paco Lopez 120 Barclay Tagg 20/1 9 9Louder Than Bombs (KY) Joe Bravo 118 David Fawkes 15/1 10 10Sombeyay (KY) Luis Saez 124 Todd A. Pletcher 7/2 11 11Mr Dumas (KY) Leonel Reyes 124 Michael J. Maker 12/1 12 12El Tormenta (ON) Julien R. Leparoux 124 Gail Cox 9/2 13 13First Premio (KY) Florent Geroux 120 Mark E. Casse 10/1 14 14Halladay (KY) John R. Velazquez 122 Todd A. Pletcher 10/1 15 15Regally Irish (NJ) Rajiv Maragh 118 H. Graham Motion 30/1 16 16Flavius (KY) Joel Rosario 118 Chad C. Brown 8/1
Gulfstream Park, Saturday, March 28, 2020, Race 13