Gulfstream Park expected to lure top 2018 Kentucky Derby hopefuls

Gulfstream Park expected to lure top 2018 Kentucky Derby hopefuls
Photo: Susie Raisher/NYRA

Following a 2017 season where the winners of all three Triple Crown races came from South Florida connections, Gulfstream Park figures to once again be home to many of the top 3-year-old prospects of 2018 during its 89-day Championship Meet which kicks off with the $1.11 million Claiming Crown Saturday, Dec. 2.


Led by its signature race, the 67th running of the $1 million Florida Derby (G1) March 31, 2018, Gulfstream offers one of the most lucrative and prestigious stakes programs in the country for 3-year-olds. The schedule begins with the $100,000 Mucho Macho Man Jan. 6 and continues with the $350,000 Holy Bull (G2) and $200,000 Swale (G2) Feb. 3, $400,000 Fountain of Youth (G2) March 3 and $100,000 Hutcheson (G3) March 24.


The Florida Derby continued its long tradition of Triple Crown success when Always Dreaming became the second straight horse and third in five years to repeat his victory four weeks later in the Kentucky Derby (G1). In the first 66 runnings of the Florida Derby, 44 starters have gone on to win a remarkable 59 Triple Crown events, including 19 in the Preakness (G1) and 16 in the Belmont Stakes (G1).


Always Dreaming’s Todd Pletcher-trained stablemate, Tapwrit, earned his first stakes victory in the one-mile Pulpit on turf last December at Gulfstream and would go on to take the Belmont, the last and longest leg of the Triple Crown at 1 ½ miles, six months later.


Pletcher, coming off an unprecedented 14th consecutive Championship Meet training title, led the country with 23 wins by 2-year-old male horses on dirt this year (through Nov. 23). The 50-year-old Texan has had horses at Palm Beach Downs since early September, and will have a plethora of prospects to sort through once again.


Among them are Montauk, an impressive maiden winner by Medaglia d’Oro Oct. 7 at Belmont Park in his lone start; War Front colt Hazit, most recently eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) Nov. 4 at Del Mar; Super Sermon, runner-up in the Nov. 5 Nashua (G2) at Aqueduct; Mojovation, third in the Futurity (G3) Oct. 14 at Belmont; Tempestad, third in the Saratoga Special (G2); Seabhac, winner of the Sept. 30 Pilgrim (G3) on turf; and Dial One, multiple stakes-placed on dirt who broke his maiden over the Gulfstream grass in May.


Based at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream Park’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach County, defending Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown earned his first career Triple Crown race victory with Cloud Computing in the Preakness, beating 2016 juvenile champion Classic Empire, his Mark Casse-trained Palm Meadows neighbor.


Brown’s string this year is likely to include Good Magic, a son of Hall of Famer Curlin that became the first horse to break his maiden in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, as well as Rushing Fall, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) Nov. 3.


Trainer Dale Romans, who has strings at both Gulfstream and Palm Meadows, is excited about Triple Crown prospects such as Breeders’ Futurity (G1) winner Free Drop Billy and Saratoga Special (G2) and Iroquois (G3) runner-up Hollywood Star, who ran ninth and sixth, respectively, in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Romans also ran second and third with Promises Fulfilled and Tiz Mischief, respectively, in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) Nov. 25 at Churchill Downs. 


A gusty head winner of the Kentucky Jockey Club was Enticed, trained by Kiaran McLauglin, who two years ago brought an undefeated Mohaymen to Gulfstream, where he was considered one of the leading Triple Crown contenders until his fourth-place finish in the Florida Derby.


Prior to his graded victory, Enticed ran third behind Firenze Fire and Good Magic in the one-mile Champagne (G1) Oct. 7 at Belmont Park. His stablemate is Nashua winner Avery Island, who like Enticed and Mohaymen is owned by Godolphin Racing.

Champagne winner Firenze Fire is trained by Jason Servis, who also makes Palm Meadows his winter base. Firenze Fire, by Poseidon’s Warrior, won the Sanford (G2) and was fourth in the Hopeful (G1) over the summer and seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.


Trainers Ralph Nicks and Stanley Gold, based year-round at Gulfstream Park, each have promising females to point toward 3-year-old filly dirt stakes such as the $200,000 Forward Gal (G2) Feb. 3, $200,000 Davona Dale (G2) March 3 and $250,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) March 31.


Zoom & Fish Stable, Charlie Spiring and Newtown Anner Stud’s Caledonia Road won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) Nov. 4 for Nicks, coming off a runner-up finish in the Frizette (G1). Gold was third in the Juvenile Fillies with Arindel homebred Blonde Bomber, who broke her maiden and won the Sept. 30 Our Dear Peggy Stakes at Gulfstream.

Source: Gulfstream Park communications


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