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Star Contender Makes 3YO Debut in GP Derby

Gulfstream Park
Photo: MEC

John Oxley’s Star Contender was among the most accomplished 2-year-olds in Canada this year for trainer Mark Casse and will make his 3-year-old debut in the $100,000 Gulfstream Park Derby going one mile on New Year’s Day, Tuesday, Jan. 1.

“We had a lot of nice 2-year-olds this year and he was the greenest of the bunch,” said Casse Wednesday morning from Palm Meadows. “He’s Canadian-bred and there are so many good races for them at Woodbine, we just left him up there. He’s trained very well on dirt, but it’s a question you want to answer.”

A son of Henny Hughes, Star Contender made four starts at Woodbine, finishing third in his debut in the Simcoe Stakes in early September before breaking his maiden in an ‘off the turf’ race on Polytrack later that month. He won the $250,000 Cup and Saucer Stakes on turf on Oct. 20 in his third start. Last out, he finished second as the even-money favorite in the $250,000 Coronation Futurity run over Polytrack on Nov. 10.

Casse did indeed have ‘a lot’ of nice 2-year-olds this season and ran three of them in Breeders’ Cup races at Santa Anita. Another Oxley-owned colt is Dynamic Sky, who was also nominated for the Gulfstream Park Derby, but will be reserved for a later engagement. The son of Sky Mesa finished a game second in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland in his third start after two at Woodbine and then finished sixth behind Shanghai Bobby in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) on Nov. 3.

Casse also took two 2-year-old fillies to Santa Anita with Oxley’s Spring in the Air finishing fifth with some trouble behind Beholder in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) and Gary Barber and Stoneway Farm’s Spring Venture checking in 13th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) after a slow start.

Both fillies are from the first crop of 2008 Donn Handicap (G1) winner Spring At Last. Spring in the Air won the Alcibiades Stakes (G1) at Keeneland in October to earn her trip to the Breeders’ Cup after a win and two seconds at Woodbine to begin her career. Spring Venture won all three of her starts at Woodbine before the California foray, including the Natalma Stakes (G2) and Mazarine Stakes (G3).

“Spring in the Air should be ready to run sometime around the end of January,” said Casse, who suggested the $200,000 Forward Gal Stakes (G2) at seven furlongs on Jan. 26 was a possibility.

In addition to the three 2-year-olds, Casse took older horses Delegation and Pool Play to run in Breeders’ Cup races. Gary and Cecil Barber’s 3-year-old Delegation finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) and came back to finish second behind Csaba in the $100,000 Harlan’s Holiday Stakes here on Dec. 16. William S. Farish, Jr.’s 7-year-old Pool Play finished eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) behind Fort Larned.

Gulfstream Park Derby One of Four Stakes on New Year’s Day

The New Year’s racing action at Gulfstream Park gets off to a fast start Tuesday, Jan. 1 with four stakes race on the program -- $100,000 Gulfstream Park Derby for 3-year-olds at one mile, $100,000 Spectacular Bid Stakes for 3-year-olds at six furlongs, $100,000 Old Hat Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies at six furlongs and $75,000 Ginger Brew Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles on turf.

The probable/possible field for the Gulfstream Park Derby includes John Oxley’s Star Contender, Rosa Stephany Taveras’ Sr. Quisqueyano, Sterling Racing’s Black Onyx, Goodwood Racing’s Purple Egg, Wes Welker’s Undrafted and Dream Walkin Farms’ Almost English.

David Melin and Laurie Plesa’s Brave Dave is prominent among the prospects for the Spectacular Bid. The son of Put It Back is a three-time stakes-winner for trained Eddie Plesa, Jr., winning the Sapling Stakes (G3) at Monmouth Park and two more at Calder in the fall. Other probables are Richard Ravin and Wesley Ward’s Handsome Jack and Silverton Hill LLC’s Little Distorted.

The biggest name expected in the entries on the New Year’s Day program will be Stonestreet Stables’ Kauai Kate, fourth last out in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) at Santa Anita on Nov. 2 for trainer Todd Pletcher. The daughter of Malibu Moon won all three of her previous starts in New York, including the Adirondack Stakes (G2) at Saratoga and Matron Stakes (G2) at Belmont Park.



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