Prospect Watch: Lea’s half-brother returns to action

Prospect Watch: Lea’s half-brother returns to action
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire

During a quiet week with barely any stakes races on the agenda, a bevy of maiden and allowances races for 3-year-olds will provide some of most interesting action to analyze.

The Saturday card at Gulfstream features the return of Acre, a promising half-brother to 2014 Donn Handicap (G1) winner Lea. But first, there’s an allowance race on Friday at Gulfstream that promises to toss up a contender or two for future Road to the Kentucky Derby prep races.

Let’s dig in and review the most promising prospects to follow:

Thursday, April 2

Gulfstream Park Race 9: Maiden Special Weight (1 1/16 miles on turf, 5:07 p.m. ET)

#3 Limetini

A son of Tapiture produced by the unraced Limehouse mare Lime Lady, Limetini is a half-brother to Limation, upset winner of the 2018 Super Derby (G2) running 1 1/8 miles. Sold for $240,000 as a yearling, Limetini has been breezing like clockwork and has shown flashes of speed over the slow track at Palm Beach Downs, most notably clocking five furlongs in a bullet 1:00 4/5 on Feb. 24. Trained by Todd Pletcher for Phoenix Thoroughbred, Limetini will debut with hot jockey Luis Saez in the saddle and figures to fire a decent shot in his initial run.

Friday, April 3

Gulfstream Park Race 6: Maiden Special Weight (1 1/16 miles, 3:39 p.m. ET)

#1 Mau Mau

A son of Empire Maker out of the graded stakes-placed Medaglia d’Oro mare Tokyo Time, Mau Mau has about as strong a stamina-oriented pedigree as you can find in North America these days. It’s easy to see why Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott is debuting this Emory A. Hamilton homebred over 1 1/16 miles, since racing two turns is bound to be Mau Mau’s forte. Joel Rosario has accepted the mount, but don’t be surprised if Mau Mau comes up short in his first start. Empire Maker sires just 8% debut winners and Mott strikes at a 9% rate with first-time starters, so Mau Mau figures to improve with experience and maturity.

#3 Candy Machine

A Triple Crown nominee, Candy Machine ran a big race on debut for trainer Chad Brown, finishing second in six-furlong sprint on Feb. 29 at Gulfstream. The race came back reasonably strong on the speed figure scales, with Candy Machine receiving an 89 Brisnet Speed rating, and as a son of Candy Ride out of a Giant’s Causeway mare, this $475,000 yearling purchase should only improve while stretching out around two turns. Keep in mind, Candy Machine’s dam — Viva Carina — crossed the wire first in the 1 1/4-mile Santa Barbara Handicap (G2), so there’s plenty of stamina in play here.

#8 Wind Ridge

Though Wind Ridge could finish only fifth in his Feb. 8 debut running 1 mile and 40 yards at Tampa Bay Downs, he was facing a quality field — the victorious Texas Swing returned to finish third in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2), while third-place finish Giocare won his next start. As a son of Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist, Wind Ridge has the pedigree to improve with maturity, and trainer Christophe Clement wins at a 20% rate with second-time starters. With the benefit of a race under his belt, this Robert S. Evans homebred could take a step forward on Friday.

Saturday, April 4

Gulfstream Park Race 11: Allowance Optional Claiming (7 furlongs, 5:52 p.m. ET)

#3 I’ll Fight Dempsey

Sold for $300,000 as a yearling, I’ll Fight Dempsey delivered a sharp debut victory for trainer Todd Pletcher. Favored at 2-1 in a six-furlong maiden dash at Gulfstream, the son of Into Mischief flashed speed from the start, carving out quick fractions of :22.59 and :46.11 before pulling away to win by 2 1/2 lengths over the above-mentioned Candy Machine. This victory produced solid speed figures of 93 (Brisnet) and 84 (Beyer), and I’ll Fight Dempsey has since posted a trio of bullet half-mile workouts at Palm Beach Downs, suggesting he’ll take a step forward in his second career start.

#8 Acre

We featured Acre on a couple of occasions last summer, when the son of Blame was just getting started at Saratoga under the care of Bill Mott. A half-brother to the versatile Grade 1 winner Lea, Acre finished a dull seventh in his debut (won by future stakes winner Shoplifted), but fared much better second time out, rallying to win a seven-furlong sprint by 3 1/2 lengths. Acre subsequently went to the sidelines, but has been training steadily at Payson Park in preparation for his return, wrapping up with a quick three furlongs in :36 on Mar. 31. Saturday’s sprint looks like the perfect opportunity for Acre to dip his toes back in the water before stretching out later this spring.

Oaklawn Park Race 8: Allowance Optional Claiming (1 1/16 miles, 5:38 p.m. ET)

#7 Fort Knox

Though his sire, Goldencents, was more of a sprinter/miler than a genuine route runner, Fort Knox has thrived since stretching out around two turns for trainer Keith Desormeaux. On Jan. 1, he finished third in a 1 1/16-mile maiden race at Fair Grounds won by Major Fed, who returned to hit the board in a pair of Road to the Kentucky Derby prep races. Then on Feb. 15, Fort Knox stretched out to 1 1/8 miles at Fair Grounds and dominated with ease, employing pace-tracking tactics to win by 8 3/4 lengths. Owned by Calumet Farm, Fort Knox has been firing off fast workouts in preparation for his return and could take another step forward on Saturday.

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