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Falling Sky Sharp for GP Handicap

Falling Sky turned in a thoroughly dazzling performance in the $100,000 Gulfstream Park Sprint (G3) on Feb. 8, setting a swift pressured pace before drawing off to a 5 ½-length triumph.            

The 4-year-old son of Lion Heart ran seven furlongs in a sparkling 1:20.65 to eclipse Tour of the Cat’s 2003 stakes record of 1:21 and just miss the track record of 1:20.45 set by Hilda’s Passion on March 19, 2011.            

Falling Sky is scheduled to return to action in Saturday’s $250,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap, which attracted a field of eight, including 2013 Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Palace Malice and Itsmyluckday, the 2013 Gulfstream Park Derby and Holy Bull (G3) winner and Preakness (G1) runner-up. Falling Sky will attempt to carry his superior speed an extra eighth of a mile in the one-mile Gulfstream Park Handicap, although he will still only have to negotiate one turn.

Falling Sky tuned up for the Gulfstream Sprint in a mile allowance race on Jan. 11, setting the pace into deep stretch before falling a half-length short of holding off favored Revolutionary. “I think on that day, the other horse just got him. I don’t really think he had an excuse other than he had run at Laurel in early November and there was a two-month span into that race. He still might have been a little bit fresh then and not 100-percent race-fit,” Weaver said. “I think we have a bigger, stronger horse than we had when he ran against Revolutionary.”

The Jan. 11 allowance was run in 1:35.07, faster than the 1:35.30 it took Lea to win the mile Hal’s Hope (G3) later in the day. “We could have shipped him to Santa Anita to run him at seven furlongs (Saturday’s $250,000 San Carlos).

We could have run him there or sat on him and wait for the Carter (Aqueduct on April 6) or thought about Dubai. But the horse is in such good form, we thought it would be silly to sit on him. He’s doing so well,” Weaver said. “I thought of shipping out to California and back, but we’re in such a good groove with him, so I said, ‘Let’s just leave him here and run him here.’”

Falling Sky was on the Kentucky Derby trail last year when trained by John Terranova, who saddled him for a front-running victory around two turns in the 1-1/16-mile Sam F. Davis (G3). He subsequently finished third in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) and fourth in the Arkansas Derby (G1) before finishing 19th after a slow start in the Kentucky Derby (G1). This season, Weaver is concentrating on one-turn races for the Pennsylvania-bred horse.            

“I think anywhere from six, seven (furlongs) to a mile, is fine, but if I could pick the distance I would pick seven-eighths, because his last race was his best race,” he said. “The horse is just going into his 4-year-old campaign and he has a couple of good races under his belt, and I expect him to go over there and run another one.”            

As confident as Weaver is that Falling Sky is ready to turn in another brilliant effort, he’s well aware that Palace Malice and Itsmyluckyday should pose strong challenges in their respective 2014 debuts.            

“Those are two obviously proven class horses of the field. They’re both coming off layoffs. Itsmyluckday is coming off even more of a layoff. I think he’s had a good one-turn mile race (2013 Gulfstream Park Derby) before, so that caught my eye. I have all the respect in the world for Palace Malice.

He won the Belmont and probably should have won the Travers. He’s got a lot of quality,” Weaver said. “Both of them are coming off layoffs. I think going a one-turn mile, if both horses are in good form, I might be a little bit more worried about Itsmyluckyday. But, I wouldn’t surprise me if either one of those horses won.”            

Elvis Trujillo has been named to ride Falling Sky, replacing Luis Saez, who’ll is set to ride Will Take Charge in Saturday’s Santa Anita Handicap (G1).                       



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