Saturday’s $100,000 Dr. Fager Stakes at Gulfstream Park is the first leg of the Florida Sire Stakes for 2-year-old colts. The series continues with the $200,000 Affirmed Stakes on Aug. 28, and the final leg, the $400,000 In Reality, will wind up Sept. 25.
Contested continuously since 1982, Dr. Fager alumni include Eclipse Award Champion Sprinters Smile (1986) and Big Drama (2010), plus Grade 1 winners Jackson Bend, In Summation, Big City Man and Not Surprising.
This year, nine colts and geldings will sprint six furlongs. Here is a closer look at the major players.
The 8-5 favorite, Hope in Him (Chitu - Satan's Mistress, by Songandaprayer), brought $190,000 at this year’s OBS March 2-year-olds in training auction. The Joe Orseno-trained colt graduated at first asking in a big way, outclassing rivals, including Lightning Larry, by five lengths. Hope in Him has a trio of quick works, including a pre-race five-furlong bullet in 1:00.4. Samy Camacho takes the reins from the recuperating Edwin Gonzalez.
Pedigree: There are a trio of black-type earners Hope in Him’s pedigree. His dam Satan's Mistress is multiple stakes-placed on dirt and turf. She’s a half to stakes-placed miler Red Door Drive, and Hope in Him’s second dam Sheza Nasty Lady is a stakes-winning turf miler.
Two Cajun Breeze geldings, Dean Delivers (4-1) and Cajun’s Magic (5-1), conditioned by Michael Yates, are very close in form. They received identical Brisnet late-pace speed figures of 85, the highest in this field. Dean Delivers graduated at first asking by 7 1/4 lengths in an open maiden race, while Cajun’s Magic got the job done second time out against state-bred maidens, winning by 4 3/4 lengths.
Dean Delivers is a half-brother to Zimba Warrior, third in the 2019 Bob Hope Stakes and the 2020 Sham Stakes, both Grade 3 races. Dean Delivers’ third dam is a half to the dam of champion Songbird.
Cajun’s Magic’s unraced dam is a half to two Florida Stallion Stakes winners; Scandalous Act swept the filly division in 2013, and Two Ts at Two B captured the 2012 Dr. Fager.
Not quick enough to catch Hope in Him in their debut, Lightening Larry (6-1) added more distance and won his second start by two lengths. His speed figure jumped to 86, the highest in the field.
Pedigree: Lightening Larry’s pedigree (Uncaptured - Moon and Sun, by Malibu Moon) indicates that he’ll appreciate more distance. There is class in his distaff line, and he has a close relation to Storm Cat. Uncaptured descends from Strom Cat through his sire line.
Lightening Larry’s second dam Indian Sunset is a full sister-in-blood to Storm Cat.
Lightening Larry’s third dam Navajo Pass is a full sister to Terlingua, dam of Storm Cat. Navajo Pass was bred to Storm Bird (Storm Cat’s sire), and the resulting foal was Indian Sunset.
Full siblings-in-blood have four grandparents that are exactly the same. The sire or dam are full-sister or -brother to the sire or dam of the other horse.
Big and Classy (8-1) cuts back in distance and drops in class after graduating in his second start against straight maidens at seven furlongs. His speed figure for that race fits with the field, and David Fawkes has a 20 percent win rate with last-out maiden winners returning in a stakes. He gave the colt a series of post-race four-furlong works in the :48 to :49 range.
Pedigree: Big and Classy (The Big Beast - I'mclassyandsassy, by Master Command) is a half to 2019 Jerome Stakes third-place finisher Family Biz. Their dam placed in the Sorority Stakes at Monmouth. The second generation of this line includes Just Grazed Me, a two-time winner of the California Distaff, and she also won the Senator Ken Maddy Stakes (G3) on the 2019 Breeders’ Cup undercard.
Laki Lio (10-1) won his debut in April by 3 1/2 lengths over Merlin. The Jena Antonucci trainee has experience breaking from the rail and the speed to stay with the frontrunners. His speed figures fit with this field.
Pedigree: Laki Lio (Ride On Curlin - Lilikoi, by Freud) is by 2014 Preakness runner-up Ride on Curlin. Laki Lio’s dam is a half-sister to the hard-knocking Manchurian High, who, despite his $1,000 purchase price, went on to race 51 times and earned $516,943 as multiple stakes-winning turf router, who captured back-to-back editions of the Sunshine Millions Turf.
Merlin (15-1) finished second in all three career starts. He closed within a length of the winner in his last race, a 5 1/2-furlong maiden event against open company, and the extra distance should suit.
Pedigree: Merlin’s full brother Genghis placed in the Smooth Air Stakes and Juvenile Turf, both at a mile. Second dam Dat You Miz Blue is a Grade 3 winner who earned more than $800,000 in 33 starts.
Palimonium (15-1) finished fourth in his recent debut on turf. He adds blinkers, cuts back in distance and gives dirt a try. The Saffie A. Joseph Jr. trainee turns around in just 13 days.
Gold Special (20-1) was a six-length winner in a maiden $35,000 claimer in his second start, and he moves up in class.