Trainer Wesley Ward gave a ‘thumbs up’ sign Jan. 4, the morning after Notonthesamepage rolled to a near record-setting victory in the six-furlong Spectacular Bid, a $100,000 event for 3-year-olds.
The next step for the Kentucky homebred son of Catienus will be two months away in the Fountain of Youth, which will be contested as a one-turn mile in 2009.
“He’s doing great this morning,” said Ward at his Gulfstream. “I always like to give horses some time after a big run. That was a big run yesterday. The Fountain of Youth will be great for him at a mile.”
Notonthesamepage had lost three straight stakes to close his 2-year-old campaign. Respiratory bleeding problems became progressively worse as Ward tried the colt at longer distances, culminating in a last-place finish in the 1 1/1- mile Breeders’ Futurity (gr. I) at Keeneland on Oct. 4.
He showed no signs of those problems in the Spectacular Bid, rolling to an 81/4-length victory under jockey Elvis Trujillo. The time, 1:08.48, missing the track record for six furlongs by .02 of a second.
“I’d always thought of him as a really good sprinter,” said Ward, “but once he got those problems behind him, he’s just started training so well. The Fountain of Youth lets us stretch him out and see how far he wants to go.”
Hobeau Farm’s Delightful Kiss has taken 78-year-old trainer Pete Anderson from one end of the country to the other with the roll continuing when the 5-year-old son of Kissin Kris rallied to a three-length victory in the $100,000 Hal’s Hope Stakes (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park Jan. 3.
Anderson reported everything was looking good the morning after while taking in congratulations outside his friend and Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens’ barn. Delightful Kiss is stabled at Calder.
“He stood under a hose for about 45 minutes yesterday after the race and ate up all his dinner,” said Anderson. “The day he doesn’t eat up is the day I’ll call 10 veterinarians to come check him out. He’s been more than good to me.”
The next start for Delightful Kiss comes in the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic Jan. 24. The gray gelding will try to become 3-for-3 at Gulfstream. It was an allowance win here as a 3-year-old that propelled him to victories in the Ohio Derby (gr. II) and Iowa Derby that season prior to another good campaign in 2008, finishing second to Einstein in the Clark Handicap (gr. II) at Churchill Downs in late November in his last start before the Hal’s Hope.
Anderson, a former jockey who won the 1958 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) aboard Cavan, insists he loves the travel and willingly puts up with quite a bit from the star of his one-horse stable.
“He kicked me in the leg one time,” said Anderson. “He’s slammed me around. He had me bleeding down my face one time, but I wouldn’t trade it. I say he can keep on doing it.”
Mount Joy Stable’s 4-year-old Florida homebred colt Smooth Air worked seven furlongs in 1:29 Jan. 4 at Calder Race Course for trainer Bennie Stutts, Jr. in preparation for his next likely start in the Sunshine Millions Classic.
The move was his third recorded workout since returning from California where he finished a respectable seventh last out in the $5-million Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park Oct. 25, beaten only 5 1/4 lengths for it all by Raven’s Pass.
“He’s right on schedule so far,” said Stutts. “We’ll set him down next weekend to go a strong three-quarters, and if that goes well, then we should be all set with just an easy mile work after that before the race. He’s run well after a lengthy layoff before. When he was third in the Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II), it was his first start in three months and he was giving the two that finished ahead of him eight pounds each.”
The son of Smooth Jazz was beaten 1 3/4 lengths in the Pennsylvania Derby by Anak Nakal in his first start since winning the Ohio Derby (gr. II) at Thistledown May 31. In two starts over the Gulfstream track last year he won the Hutcheson Stakes (gr. II) and finished second to Big Brown in the Florida Derby (gr. I).
A pair of ‘money’ allowance races scheduled for Jan. 8 at Gulfstream Park at 1 1/8 miles with a purse of $42,000 each will almost certainly produce contenders of the $750,000 Florida Derby (gr. I) on Mar. 28.
Lori and George Hall’s Atomic Rain may rule the choice in the sixth race with jockey John R. Velazquez aboard in his first start since finishing second to Old Fashioned in the Remsen Stakes (gr. II) at Aqueduct Nov. 29. Trained by Kelly Breen, the son of Smart Strike had broken his maiden at Monmouth Park after a second-place debut on two previous outings.
Thomas Conway and partners’ Pressure Point will also have support in the field of eight with Julien Leparoux aboard for trainer Mike Maker. The son of Point Given was a $200,000 OBS March 2-year-old purchase and won his only start going seven furlongs at Churchill Downs Nov. 29.
Another contender to watch is New Life Stable’s homebred Stately Character with Herb McCauley. The son of Pleasant Tap rallied to victory in the Foolish Pleasure Stakes going a mile and 70 yards at Calder last out Sept. 27, breaking his maiden in the race after three good tries in shorter races.
A field of nine was drawn for the eighth race, where trainer Ken McPeek appears to have a strong hand with Lansdon Robbins III and Sam Delaney’s Danger Society, and Samotowka Stable’s Theregoesjojo, with Robby Albarado and Kent Desormeaux aboard, respectively.
Danger to Society is a Harlan's Holiday colt purchased for $300,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky yearling sales and won his only start going a mile at Churchill Nov. 19. Theregoesjojo won his debut at Churchill in late May and finished fourth in the Bashford Manor Stakes (gr. III) there last out July 5.