Bailey Makes Final Ride With Mott's Silver Tree

Bailey Makes Final Ride With Mott's Silver Tree
Photo: Wally Skalij
Jockey Jerry Bailey at Monday evening's Eclipse Awards ceremony.
(from Gulfstream Park release)
Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey's final career ride is to be aboard Peter Vegso's 6-year-old Silver Tree in the $500,000 Cloverleaf Turf Farms Stakes, the highlight of the four Sunshine Millions races at Gulfstream Park Saturday.

Silver Tree brings together one of the most successful jockey-trainer teams in racing history. Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott gives Bailey a leg up in the 1 1/8-mile turf course feature, which goes as the ninth race on the Gulfstream card.

Silver Tree will likely be a lukewarm favorite in a wide-open field of 12 older horses drawn for the Cloverleaf after a game neck victory in the Tropical Turf Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Calder Dec. 3 with Bailey aboard. The same team finished third in the Sunshine Millions Turf at Santa Anita last year, beaten a length by Star Over the Bay.

The son of Hennessy, bred in Florida by his owner, boasts career earnings of $950,000. He was keeping lofty company last summer as runner-up in the Bernard Baruch Handicap (gr. IIT) and Fourstardave Handicap (gr. IIT) at Saratoga behind Eclipse Award finalists Artie Schiller and Leroidesanimaux, respectively.

Robert Alexander's 4-year-old Willow O Wisp, with Pat Valenzuela flying in for the mount, leads a trio of California-trained invaders for the Cloverleaf Turf. Actually, Willow O Wisp is a Florida-bred that won once in seven starts as a 2-year-old at Calder before being sold privately and flourishing as a 3-year-old in California.

Trained by Vladimir Cerin, Willow O Wisp is a gelding by Misnomer who obviously relished his new home, winning four of five starts at Hollywood Park and Del Mar, highlighted by his score in the Del Mar Derby (gr. IIT) in early September. In one start since, he didn't ship well to the Orient, finishing ninth in the Hong Kong Cup (HK-I) at Sha Tin in December, although beaten only 4 1/4 lengths by the winner.

Robert Bone and Jeffrey Diener's versatile 7-year-old gelding Captain Squire is another Florida-bred who began his career near home but found fortune in California. Trained by Jeff Mullins, the son of Flying Chevron has won more than $1.1 million while posting stakes victories at every Southern California meet.

Captain Squire may be best known for his prowess sprinting, but he did finish a close-up second in the San Francisco Breeders' Cup (gr. IIT) at Bay Meadows going a mile on turf in April of 2004. He tuned up for this engagement with a solid second, beaten a head by turf stakes star The Tin Man in a classified allowance at Santa Anita on Dec. 28. Alex Solis comes along for the ride Saturday.

While this is supposed to be part of a competition between California and Florida breds, 11 of the 12 horses entered and both also-eligibles are Florida products. Night Dash, who figures to be one of the longest shots on the board, is the lone Californian.

$500,000 Sunshine Millions Cloverleaf Farms Turf Stakes (Race 9, 5:20 p.m. ET), 4 & up, bred in California & Florida, 1 1/8 miles (turf)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Miesque's Approval (FL), 122, Eddie Castro
2. Stormy Roman (FL), 122, Mike Smith
3. Gin and Sin (FL), 122, Javier Castellano
4. Silver Tree (FL), 122, Jerry Bailey
5. Eastern Sand (FL), 120, Edgar Prado
6. Dream On Dream On (FL), 120, Juan Leyva
7. Willow O Wisp (FL), 120, Patrick Valenzuela
8. Night Dash (CA), 120, Christopher DeCarlo
9. Captain Squire (FL), 122, Alex Solis
10. We All Love Aleyna (FL), 122, Rafael Bejarano
11. Touched by Madness (FL), 120, Shaun Bridgmohan
12. Icy Atlantic (FL), 122, John Velazquez
Also Eligible
13. Ballonenostrikes (FL), 122, Jose Lezcano
14. Be My Buddy (FL), 122, Brice Blanc

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