Bruce Hollander and Cary Shapoff’s Csaba
is the "now" horse.
The 4-year-old has streaked to three consecutive commanding stakes
victories for trainer Phil Gleaves, the most recent Dec. 16 when drawing
off to a 3 3/4 length victory over Gary Barber's Delegation in the
$100,000 Harlan's Holiday at Gulfstream at 1 1/16 mile.
Come Sunday, those two will face off again in a field of 10 older
horses in the $100,000 Hal's Hope at a one-turn mile. Luis Saez gets the
return call on Csaba and John Velazquez will be on Delegation for
trainer Mark Casse.
A son of Kitten’s Joy, Csaba turns back in distance after reeling
off victories in the ‘off the turf’ Tropical Park Derby by 14 lengths at
Calder on Oct. 13 and the Fred Hooper Handicap (G3) there by seven
lengths on Nov. 14 before the impressive score in the Harlan’s Holiday
"I like the turn back,” said Gleaves. “Woody (Stephens) made a habit
of doing that over the years,” referring to Gleaves’ Hall of Fame
mentor for whom he was a top assistant until going out on his own in the
mid-80s. “If all goes well in the Hal’s Hope, the ($500,000) Donn
Handicap (G1) would be next on the radar.” Gleaves purchased Csaba
privately for Hollander and Shapoff as an un-raced 2-year-old in “April
or May” of 2011.
Delegation was making his first start in the Harlan’s Holiday since a
good third-place try behind Tapizar and Rail Trip in the $1 million
Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) at Santa Anita on Nov. 3. The son of
Speightstown had won the Durham Cup (G3) at Woodbine on Polytrack in his
previous start and had a very consistent 8-4-2-2 record in 2012.
Casse also entered William S. Farish, Jr.’s 8-year-old Pool Play as a
supplementary entry into the Hal’s Hope with his regular rider Miguel
Mena flying in for the mount in the veteran stakes performer’s first
start since finishing eighth behind Fort Larned and Mucho Macho Man in
the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Santa Anita.
A son of Silver Deputy, Pool Play won the Hawthorne Gold Cup
Handicap (G2) in Chicago in his previous appearance, also run at 1 ¼
miles. He posted his biggest career victory with a 36-to-1 upset in the
Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) at Churchill Downs in June of 2011 prior to
a one-year layoff.
The ‘wild card’ entry in the Hal’s Hope is Harvey Clarke and
partners’ 5-year-old Soldat, who has flashed brilliance on occasion
while a big disappointment at other times in his 11-race career. Jockey
Javier Castellano rides the son of War Front for trainer Kiaran
McLaughlin as he makes only his third start since finishing 11th of 19
behind Animal Kingdom in the 2011 Kentucky Derby (G1).
Soldat appeared bound for a career on turf when winning the With
Anticipation Stakes at Saratoga and finishing second in the Breeders’
Cup Juvenile Turf (G2) at Churchill Downs as a 2-year-old in 2010, but
his career took a sharp turn to the Derby Trail after a 10-length
allowance score on the main track here and two-length victory in the in
the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) here early in 2011.
His career once again appeared re-directed to turf after he posted
an impressive three-length victory on turf over the Gulfstream course in
early March last year, but was sidelined again with a soft tissue
injury until returning with a disappointing sixth-place finish in an
overnight stakes on turf at Aqueduct last out on Nov. 17.
“We’re looking at the future. It’s probably a good time to try him
back on the dirt and see what happens,” McLaughlin said. “If he doesn’t
run well, we can put him back on the turf. But the races on the turf
down here are going to be extremely difficult with Animal Kingdom and
Point of Entry and others. We thought it would be a good time to switch
to the dirt and see how it goes.”
Another contender in the Hal’s Hope on his best form would be George
and Lori Hall’s 5-year-old Pants On Fire and jockey Paco Lopez aboard
for trainer Kelly Breen, who also entered the son of Jump Start for
‘main track only’ in Saturday’s $150,000 Fort Lauderdale Handicap (G2)
Pants On Fire emerged as a Kentucky Derby prospect early in 2011
when he won the Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds with Mucho Macho
Man third before finishing ninth of 19 in the ‘Run for the Roses’ behind
Animal kingdom. He ran a very big race to win a one-mile allowance race
here by 4 ½ lengths last March in his only previous start over this
Pants On Fire went on to finish sixth in the $1 million Charles Town
Classic (G2) in April and won the Skip Away Stakes at Monmouth Park in
late May, but didn’t run again until finishing sixth as the odds-on
favorite in the $150,000 Delta Mile at Delta Downs in Louisiana on Nov.
17 when he acted up at the gate and missed the break.
Completing the field for the Hal’s Hope are Silverton Hill LLC’s
Swagger Jack, Corey Lanerie; Sullivan Lane Stable’s Associate, Joel
Rosario; George Kerr’s Good Morning Diva, Manoel Cruz; JEOG Racing’s
Scatman, Jose Lezcano; and Jim Bakke and Gerry Isbister’s Cool Blue Red
Hot, Joe Bravo.