Pletcher enters four of seven in Gulfstream Park H.; Brown has three in Very One

Profile Picture: James Scully

March 2nd, 2016

Leading trainer Todd Pletcher will send out four of the seven entrants in Saturday’s $500,000 Gulfstream Park H. (G2), one of three graded events on a 13-race card along with the $200,000 Mac Diarmida (G2) and $150,000 Very One (G3).

Among the Pletcher representatives, Fred Hooper (G3) runner-up Stanford and Donn H. (G1) fourth-placer Itsaknockout are top contenders. But favoritism in the one-mile test could fall to the Marcus Vitali-trained Valid, a three-time graded winner who exits an excellent second to Mshawish in the February 6 Donn.

A close third behind Honor Code and Private Zone in last year’s Gulfstream Park H., the hard-knocking Valid has earned $960,577 from a 35-11-9-6 career record and the 6-year-old gelded son of Medaglia d’Oro will become Thoroughbred racing’s newest millionaire with a top three finish on Saturday. Nik Juarez will retain the mount.

Stanford was making his first start off an extended layoff in the aforementioned Hooper and is eligible to move forward off the tightener with Javier Castellano. Itsaknockout is a four-time winner at Gulfstream, including the 2015 Fountain of Youth (G2) via disqualification, and will keep Luis Saez in the saddle.

Anchor Down and Blofeld, who will both need to find form following defeats versus allowance/optional claiming foes, complete the Pletcher quartet.

The Very One, a 1 3/16-mile turf affair, kicks off the stakes action with a short but solid field of six distaffers, including a trio from the Chad Brown stable. Leading the way is Chilean champion Dacita, who defeated Tepin when capturing her U.S. debut in the Ballston Spa (G2) at Saratoga. The 5-year-old Scat Daddy mare will make her first appearance since a disappointing ninth as the 5-1 second choice in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) and Castellano rides.

Olorda, a French Group 3 scorer, made three starts at the Grade 1 level after shipping to America last summer but her best result was a fourth in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland. The 4-year-old filly is eligible to show more this season and picks up the services of Julien Leparoux. Multiple Chilean Group 2 winner Guapaza, unraced since July and making her North American start, completes the Brown triumvirate.

The Mac Diarmida drew seven older horses for 1 3/8 miles on turf and features a rematch between Da Big Hoss and Kaigun, the top two respective finishers in the January 30 John B. Connally Turf Cup (G3) at Sam Houston.

Claimed for $50,000 last summer, Da Big Hoss went on to capture John’s Call at Saratoga and Kentucky Turf Cup (G3) at Kentucky Downs for new trainer Mike Maker before finishing sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1). Florent Georux will guide the 5-year-old son of Lemon Drop Kid.

Kaigun, a 6-year-old Northern Afleet gelding, will attempt to snap a string of seconditits for conditioner Mark Casse, taking runner-up honors in the Red Smith (G3) at Aqueduct and W.L. McKnight (G3) at Gulfstream prior to the Connally. Joe Bravo has the call.

Grade 1 winner Twilight Eclipse, second in last year’s Mac Diarmida and unraced since an eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, is another contender of note, and All Included merits respect following a pair of thirds in the Gulfstream Park Turf (G1) and Ft. Lauderdale (G2) this year.

Photo of Valid (right with green silks), shown finishing a neck second to Mshawish in the January 9 Hal’s Hope (G3), courtesy of Leslie Martin/Adam Coglianese Photography