John Kimmel isn’t about to underestimate the competition in
Saturday’s $100,000 Spectacular Bid Stakes at Gulfstream Park, but the
veteran trainer’s primary concern will be focused on the sky.
With partly cloudy skies and only a slight chance of showers forecast
for the opening day of Gulfstream’s 2011-2012 meeting, it looks like
Kimmel will be able to relax and concentrate on Vexor’s task at hand in
the six-furlong stakes for 2-year-olds.
First race post is 12:35 p.m.
Gulfstream’s opening day will kick off with the popular Breakfast at
Gulfstream from 7-10 a.m. The first handicapping seminar of the series
will start at 11 a.m. in the Sport of Kings with special guest, Steven
Crist, author and editor and publisher of the Daily Racing Form.
Vexor is the most accomplished colt in the field of eight, having
captured the Nashua Stakes (G2) at Belmont Park on Oct. 2, but in his
most recent start in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint over a wet
Churchill Downs track on Nov. 4, he faded to last in a field of nine.
Kimmel, though, is confident that the effort doesn’t reflect his colt’s
“He’s a horse that has a particular dislike for ‘off’ racetracks. If
you look at his two races where the tracks were muddy or sloppy, like
the Hopeful or the Breeders’ Cup races, he didn’t even try,” Kimmel
said. “It’s unfortunate. His races on either side of those races were
Prior to his recent disappointment, the son of Wildcat Heir won an
extended stretch duel to capture the six-furlong Nashua by nearly a
length. That effort was preceded by an eighth-place finish in the
Hopeful (G1) over a sloppy Saratoga track. The Florida-bred colt earned
his way into the Hopeful with a sharp front-running maiden-breaking
score over a fast Saratoga racing surface in his second lifetime start.
“The horse had trained really well before his first start. After that
he got a little breather. He had a little sensitive shin. We did a
little blister on his shin, and when he ran back the second time he ran a
very, very good race,” said Kimmel, noting that his colt had earned
strong speed figures with the Ragozin Sheets. “He beat some quality
horses and came back really well.”
Kimmel expects Vexor to return from his subpar showing at Churchill Downs.
“I thought he recovered extremely quick. By the time I got back to the
barn, he seemed to be very happy. It didn’t take him a lot of time to
cool out, that’s for sure,” he said. “After the Breeders’ Cup race, I
sent him back to Gold Mark Farms, where he’s been training. We sent him
right to Florida instead of shipping him from Churchill Downs all the
way back to New York.”
Vexor, who is rated second in the morning-line at 3-l in the
eight-horse Spectacular Bid, will be ridden by Javier Castellano, who
was aboard for his maiden score last summer.
“He’s bred for speed and he’s a Florida-bred, so hopefully, he can have
a big campaign,” said Kimmel, who will have 21 horses stabled at Palm
Meadows, Gulfstream Park’s satellite training facility in Boynton Beach.
Luke of York, who is undefeated in two career starts, has been
installed as the 5-2 morning-line favorite. Trained by James DeVito, the
deep-closing son of Put It Back captured his debut by a nose at
Arlington Park on Sept. 24. The Florida-bred colt came back to post a
nose triumph in the $125,000 Keeneland 75th Anniversary Stakes on Oct.
15. Rajiv Maragh has the return mount aboard Luke of York, who will be
making his first start on dirt after winning both starts on Polytrack
Ancient Rome from the powerful Anthony Dutrow barn is rated third in
the morning line at 4-1 on the strength of his seven-length triumph in a
Delaware Park maiden event on Oct. 22. Joe Rocoo Jr. has been named to
ride the son of Roman Ruler.
For Oby, the winner of the $125,000 Jack Price Juvenile Stakes at
Calder last time out, and Town Prize, a stakes-place winner of two
races in three starts at Woodbine, are both rated at 6-1 in the morning
line. Julio Garcia has the return mount on For Oby, while Luis Saez will
ride Town Prize for the first time.
Blings Express (Paco Lopez), Jordan’s Image (Daniel Centeno) and Rex’s
Last Tour (Fernando Jara) round out the field for the Spectacular Bid,
which has been carded as the ninth race on the 10-race opening-day card.