Phipps Stable homebred Imagining has been a consistent barn favorite
for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey, capping the 2013 season with
his elusive first graded stakes victory.
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire - Sue Kawcynski
The lightly raced 6-year-old son of Giant’s Causeway will go after an
even bigger prize on Sunday in the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Turf
Handicap (G1), the lone Grade 1 grass stakes of the Champions
First or second in 10 of 14 lifetime starts, seven of them victories,
Imagining takes a two-race win streak into the 1 1/8-mile turf test,
which shares the card with the $500,000 Donn Handicap (G1) and the
$150,000 Hurricane Bertie (G3).
“He’s a neat horse. We had some offers to buy him to go to stud, and
Mr. Phipps said, ‘If he’s OK, let’s try to race him,’ so that’s what
we’re going to do,” McGaughey said. “I think he’ll run good. This is the
right spot. There’s no Point of Entry or Animal Kingdom in there, so
we’ll just see how it goes and get him started.”
has tried Grade 1 company before, finishing second in the 2011 Hollywood
Derby to end his 2-year-old season, and sixth in the Joe Hirsch Turf
Classic Invitational last fall behind Grade 1 winners Little Mike, Big
Blue Kitten and Real Solution as well as multiple graded stakes winner
Following the Joe Hirsch, Imagining returned to Belmont Park to win
the 1 ¼-mile Bowl Game Stakes in front-running fashion, then came from
off the pace to win the Red Smith Handicap (G3) by a half-length in
2:18.43 for 11 furlongs.
“I liked the way he did it. He kind of settled back off the pace and
seemed to be happy there, and he pretty much dominated the race from
there,” McGaughey said. “I was very pleased with his last race, so we’ll
just see. He’s doing real well.”
Also looking for his first Grade 1 victory is Summer Front, trained
by Christophe Clement for Waterford Stable. The seven-time stakes winner
has won three Grade 3 races and captured the Fort Lauderdale (G2) is
his most recent effort at Gulfstream on Jan. 11.
The 5-year-old son of War Front has two wins and a third from three
lifetime starts at Gulfstream, also taking the Dania Beach Stakes in
“He’s doing great and training well,” Clement said. “We’re excited
about it. He’s been very good since the last race, and I was delighted
with the last race. He’s a fit horse. Obviously, he likes it at
Gulfstream. The next race will be a tougher race. There’s no easy Grade
1, but we’ll give it a go. Now is the time to try our best.”
A winner of 11 races and more than $1.3 million in purse earnings,
Boisterous will be making his 29th career start in the Turf Handicap and
first for new trainer Todd Pletcher. Bred by Cynthia Phipps, the
7-year-old son of Distorted Humor was purchased for $350,000 by Gary
Barber at the 2013 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale.
Boisterous was first or second in six consecutive races from October
2012 to July 2013, winning the Man o’ War (G1), Monmouth Stakes (G2) and
Red Smith (G2) and Knickerbocker (G3) handicaps. Most recently he was
sixth by less than five lengths in his Knickerbocker defense on Oct.
“He’s doing great, and we’re looking forward to getting him started,”
Pletcher said. “There’s always a little bit of a
getting-to-know-the-horse period, but he’s 7 now. He’s the consummate
professional, so he’s been very straightforward. He seems to do
everything like a seasoned veteran.”
Pletcher will also saddle Charming Kitten, an allowance winner at
Gulfstream on Jan. 11 who also took the Kitten’s Joy Stakes and was
second in the Palm Beach (G3) last winter.
Amira’s Prince has won all four of his starts since coming to the
U.S. from his native Ireland, but hasn’t raced since taking the Mervin
Muniz Jr. Handicap (G2) at Fair Grounds last March. He is 3-for-3 at
Gulfstream, winning a pair of optional claiming allowances before a 3
¾-length victory in the Mac Diarmida (G2).
“He just wasn’t moving well,” Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott said of
the layoff. “We gave him some time off, turned him out for 90 days and
brought him back. He’s doing fine. There was no surgery or anything like
that, he just needed a vacation. He’s doing well. I hope he can pick it
up where he left off.”
Also running for Mott will be Wachtel Stable’s Tetradrachm, runner-up
in two straight graded stakes including the Fort Lauderdale,
three-quarters of a length behind Summer Front.
Another hard-hitting 7-year-old in the field is Nikki’s Sandcastle,
making his 37th lifetime start. Winner of the Fayette (G2) at Keeneland
last October, he was a late-running third to Summer Front in the Ft.
Lauderdale. Three of his nine career wins have come at Gulfstream,
including the 2012 El Prado Stakes.
Lochte steps up into stakes company for the first time off an
optional claiming allowance win at Gulfstream on Jan. 24. The 4-year-old
gelded son of Medaglia d’Oro has hit the board in each of his last