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Game On Dude to try Florida Derby

Gulfstream Park
Photo: MEC

Big Brown won Gulfstream Park’s Florida Derby (G1) as the favorite two years ago in just the third start of his career for trainer Rick Dutrow after winning his debut at Saratoga the summer before by 11 ¼ lengths and an allowance race over the Gulfstream track by 12 ¾ lengths in his first start as a 3-year-old.

Trainer Michael Mareina plans to send Kuehne Racing’s 3-year-old Game On Dude into this year’s 59th edition of the historic Kentucky Derby (G1) preview on Sat., Mar. 20 to make his third career start, but he’ll be a longshot in the 1 1/8 miles event as he gets his first test around two turns.

Game On Dude is a son of Awesome Again bred in Kentucky by Adena Springs Farm and finished second by three-quarters of a length at 17-to-1 in his first career start at Gulfstream on Jan. 23 going seven furlongs. He came back to break his maiden by three lengths going a mile on Feb. 27 as the 6-to-5 favorite with jockey Jeremy Rose aboard both times.

“He ran an excellent race the first time and was probably 80 per cent (fit) that day,” said Mareina earlier this week. “The race went in nine flat (1:09 three-quarters split). I think we’re going to have to go to the Florida Derby. If you’re looking down the road you’re going to have to get some earnings.

“We ran him seven-eighths to start and I would have run him back at a mile even if he had won that first race. Now, he’s been schooled. He’s sat behind horses. He’s eaten dirt and waited. He does everything like an older horse would do. We couldn’t be more pleased with him.”

Castellano Leads Gulfstream Standings into Weekend

Jockey Javier Castellano has ridden one winner on each of the last three days of racing this week at Gulfstream Park to take the lead in the standings with 37 victories, three more than closest rival John Velazquez, going into this weekend’s action.

Jockeys Julien Leparoux and Elvis Trujillo each won a race Friday and are tied for third with 30 tallies apiece ahead of Rajiv Maragh fifth with 29. Leparoux will miss the Saturday card at Gulfstream for stakes mounts at Aqueduct, but will return to ride here on Sunday.

Todd Pletcher continues alone atop the trainers’ standings with 21 wins as he bids for a seventh consecutive Gulfstream meet championship, leading his closest rival Rick Dutrow and Bill Mott tied for second with 11 each. Nick Zito is fourth with 10 victories, followed by Ken McPeek and Marty Wolfson tied for fifth with nine each.


Guys Reward Back to Turf in Sunday Feature

Michael Bruder’s 3-year-old Guys Reward ran a big race to finish fifth in the $100,000 Dania Beach Stakes on turf at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 16, beaten less than two lengths by the winner and may rule the choice in Sunday’s ‘a other than’ allowance feature at 1 1/16 miles on turf.

Jockey Julien Leparoux rides Guys Reward for trainer Dale Romans, who ran him back in a 1 1/8 miles allowance on the main track on Jan. 31 after the Dania Beach to see if he could be a Florida Derby (G1) prospect, but he finished sixth behind Drosselmeyer.

A Kentucky-bred son of Grand Reward, Guys Reward showed promise in main track events last year finishing second in the ‘off the turf’ Cradle Stakes at River Downs and a Churchill Downs allowance in late November. He was nominated for the Palm Beach Stakes (G3) on turf Saturday, but Romans opted for the allowance.


Also certain to attract solid support in Sunday’s field of 11 3-year-olds will be Peter Vegso’s Florida homebred Show the Way J with Kent Desormeaux to ride for trainer Bill Mott. The son of Forest Camp finished a close-up third in the Arthur Appleton Juvenile Turf at Calder in November behind Bim Bam and rallied for third behind Asphalt in a turf allowance here last out on Jan. 13.

Completing the field are Ione and Herb Elkins’ Forty Nine Acres, My Purple Haze Stable’s Small Town, Lewis A. Hall, Jr.’s Downs Awareness, White Hall Lane Farm’s Saint Jude, Stronach Stable’s Forever Awesome, Thomas and Frank Conway’s Stately Victor, A. Steven Miles, Jr.’s Harken Up, Lets Go Stable’s No Shenanigans and Fast Finish Racing’s Bwana Brave.


Backstretch Appreciation Picnic on Monday

The annual Backstretch Appreciation Picnic takes place on Monday at Gulfstream Park. The event recognizes the efforts of the many backside employees who make the day-to-day racing possible.

“The backside help are the ones we wouldn’t have a show to put on unless they did their part,” said Donna Ward, wife of trainer John Ward, Jr., who organizes the event. “I think it promotes a lot of camaraderie between the barns and with everyone. It’s a very upbeat event.”

The event takes place on Monday, March 8 at 5pm at the Tiki Bar at Gulfstream Park. A Florida Racing License is required to participate. There will be raffles and prizes given away.

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