Todd Pletcher-trained Zulu made a splash during the 2015-2016 Championship Meet at Gulfstream Park while establishing himself as an exciting Triple Crown prospect with three impressive performances.
The 4-year-old son of Bernardini is scheduled to compete at Gulfstream in Saturday’s $100,000 Skip Away (G3), seeking to recapture the form that had earned him the favorite’s role in last year’s Blue Grass (G1) at Keeneland.
The Skip Away highlights a 13-race program Saturday at Gulfstream that begins at 12:35 p.m. Gulfstream will open at 8 a.m. for Breakfast at Gulfstream. Gulfstream’s simulcast room will also open at 8 a.m. for simulcasting of the Dubai World Cup (G1), featuring Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1)winner Arrogate.
Surprisingly, Zulu was never a factor at Keeneland and was subsequently sidelined for eight months. He returned to action with a 2 ½-length victory in the seven-furlong Tamarac overnight stakes at Gulfstream Park Dec. 19, only to finish fifth in the one-mile Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2) last time out.
“We would like to run him again at Gulfstream just because, overall, he’s had quite a bit of success here,” said Pletcher, who opted for the 1 1/8-mile Skip Away over the Sir Shackleton on the Florida Derby Day card April 1.
In the one-turn Gulfstream Park Handicap, Zulu raced evenly and wide while never posing a threat to Sharp Azteca, a dominating 4 ½-length winner who will return to action in Saturday’s Godolphin Mile on the Dubai World Cup undercard.
“He never really got into a good rhythm. It wasn’t his best race, but he seemed to bounce out of it well,” said Pletcher, who trains Zulu for Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier, Derrick Smith and Stonestreet Stables. “We’re trying to figure out what his best distance is.”
Although he was no match for Sharp Azteca last time out, Zulu debuted at six-furlongs with a two-length victory over that rival at Gulfstream Dec. 5, 2015. He followed up that effort with a 7 ½-length triumph at seven furlongs. In his first start around two turns, Zulu made his stakes debut in the 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth (G2), in which he contested the pace before checking in second behind heavily favored Mohaymen.
Jose Ortiz was named to ride Zulu for the first time Saturday.
Joseph Allen LLC’s Team Colors, who finished second in last year’s Skip Away, is slated to take on Zulu in a field of six Saturday. The James Jerkens-trained 5-year-old finished second in an allowance race on turf at Gulfstream Feb. 18.
The son of Street Cry started his career in Europe before joining Jerkens’ New York-based stable in 2015. He won his third U.S. start and finished second in the English Channel over the Belmont turf course before finishing second in the Tropical Park Derby on turf at Gulfstream.
In his first dirt start he won at 1 1/16-miles over a muddy Gulfstream surface and came back to finish second over a sloppy track in the Skip Away last April. Team Colors went to the sideline for nine months before finishing sixth in the Jan. 17 Hal’s Hope (G3) over a fast Gulfstream track and returning to turf in his most recent start.
“The first sin the Hal’s Hope wasn’t a great spot to run him first start back. He made a big middle move and flattened out. There wasn’t anything I wanted to run him in on dirt so he went and ran on turf,” Jerkens said. “I think he likes the dirt a little better than he likes the turf.”
Paco Lopez has the assignment aboard Team Colors.
Multiple-stakes winner Fear the Cowboy is set for a return to Gulfstream Park in the Skip Away after racing primarily in Louisiana with stops in Kentucky, Minnesota and Texas the past two years. The Efren Loza Jr.-trained 5-year-old, who broke his maiden in his second lifetime start and captured the Three Chopt Road Stakes at Gulfstream, finished second in the Maxxam Gold Cup at 1 1/8 miles at Sam Houston last time out. Jesus Rios has the mount.
Hy Riverside, who won the Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Jan. 21; Flashy Jewel, who captured the Old Hickory overnight stakes last time out; and Joshua’s Comprise round out the field.
Source: Gulfstream Park