By Jim Freer
With a cast headed by this year’s Fountain of Youth (Grade 2) winner Itsaknockout, today’s fourth race at Gulfstream Park has the look of a graded stakes and could be a preview of some 2016 Gulfstream stakes races.
The seven-horse field also has General a Rod, with credentials that include a second place finish in the 2004 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream.
Both are trained by Todd Pletcher and both are coming off layoffs.
Itsaknockout has not raced since finishing ninth in the Kentucky Derby (Grade 1) on May 2.
In the 1 1/16 mile Fountain of Youth on Feb. 21,Upstart finished first by 2 ¾ lengths over Itsaknockout. But the stewards disqualified Upstart for interference in the stretch and made Itsaknockout the winner.
(Note — the photo on the home page, courtesy of Gulfstream, shows Itsaknockout (5) finishing behind Upstart (7) in the Fountain of Youth)
General a Rod has not raced since June 6 when he finished 11th and last in the Manhattan (Grade 1) at 1 ¼ miles turf at Belmont Park. It was his first turf race.
For each horse, it was a case of rest, rather than injuries, according to Don Lucarelli, co-managing partner for owner Starlight Racing.
Starlight owns Itsaknockout and shares ownership of General a Rod with Skychai Racing.
Today’s star-studded race is one mile on dirt for 3-year-olds and up. It is a $75,000 allowance/optional claimer with a $41,000 purse. Not surprisingly, none of the entrants are in for a tag.
Scheduled post for the race is 2:05 p.m. Gulfstream has a ten-race card with first post of 12:35 p.m.
The challengers to the Pletcher pair are Bluegrass Singer, Sr. Quisqueyano, Elnaawi, Norumbega and Just Call Kenny.
The order of finish could boil down to how readiness of the Pletcher horses.
Both have been training well at Palm Beach Downs in Delray Beach. Two of Itsaknockout’s recent workouts have been bullets.
Another factor could be whether Bluegrass Singer, from the rail, or Sr. Quisqueyano, from the outside seven hole, will be able to jump out to a clear lead.
Itsaknockout, in post two, and General a Rod, in post five, will be stalking the pacesetters.
Luis Saez has ridden Itsaknockout in all five of his starts and has the mount today.
John Velazquez, known for teaming with Pletcher, will ride General a Rod for the fourth consecutive race.
Javier Castellano, who again is leading Gulfstream jockeys in wins, is another Pletcher “go to” rider.
In today’s feature race Castellano will rideBluegrass Singer, a 3-year-old trained by Marcus Vitali.
“I’m not concerned about these other horses,” Vitali told us. “He won the Mucho Macho Man here this year at the same distance and he has been training well.”
The Mucho Macho Man, for 3-year-olds, is a one-turn mile–the same as today’s race.
With Castellano riding, Bluegrass Singer won it on Jan. 3 this year in a fast time of 1:35.83.
In 2014 General a Rod won the race, then known as the Gulfstream Park Derby in 1:35.84.
Bullet for Bluegrass Singer
On Dec. 21, Bluegrass Singer had a bullet workout of 47.0 seconds for a half mile at the Palm Meadows training center in Boynton Beach. It was the fastest of the day’s 45 workouts at that distance.
Bluegrass Singer is owned by Crossed Sabres Farm, which also owns the Vitali-trained multiple stakes winners Lochte and Valid.
Sr. Quisqueyano, trained by Peter Walder, has won multiple stakes at Gulfstream including this year’s Sunshine Millions Classic for Florida-breds. Edgard Zayas has the mount.
Elnaawi finished third in this year’s Donn Handicap (Grade 1) at Gulfstream. Julien Leparoux will ride for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.
Norumbega’s wins include the 2014 Brooklyn Handicap (Grade 2) at Belmont Park. Joel Rosario will ride for trainer hug McGaughey.
Just Call Kenny has finished third or better in several graded stakes. He is trained by Parick McBurney and will be ridden by Corey Lanerie.