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Feb 20, 2009

Huge Day at Gulfstream Park

By: By Jeff Frank, Contributing Editor


Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - For the 11th straight year, the "all others" betting interest has been sent off as the favorite in the first of three Kentucky Derby Future Wagers. Even though the mutual field was bet down to 9-5 from its opening line of 5-2, the odds actually increased throughout the weekend from 4-5 all the way up to the current mark of 9-5.

The "all others" wager has produced four Derby winners ranging from odds of 8-5 to 4-1 since the future bet was first instituted back in 1999. Last year, the field returned $8.60 to win, as Big Brown was yet to scrape anyone's radar back in mid-February.

Can the Pool 1 mutual field come through for a second straight season? The odds are in its favor, since there are an abundance of lightly-raced colts ready to march onto the scene.

Many of them will be going nine furlongs in the eighth race at Gulfstream Park on Thursday, including recent maiden winners Alma d'Oro, Dunkirk, Warrior's Reward and More Than Willing. Throw in American Dance, who ran third in last year's Remsen, and you have one of the more contentious races of the spring.

Alma d'Oro proved victorious earlier in the meet, winning by five lengths and running the mile in 1:38 3/5 under Edgar Prado. Trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. is extremely high on the son of Medaglia d'Oro, more so than two of his other top three-year-olds - Patena and This Ones for Phil. A win here would catapult Alma d'Oro onto everyone's top 10 list.

Dunkirk, purchased for $3.7 million as a yearling back in 2007, showed what the future could bring for his handlers, as the colt overcame a terrible start to post a 5 -length win on January 24. Prado rode the Kentucky-bred in his initial outing, but Garrett Gomez will fly in from California for the mount because Prado remains on Alma d'Oro.

Warrior's Reward also won at first asking, but unlike, Dunkirk who was sent off as the 8-5 favorite, the Ian Wilkes-trained three-year-old was 30-1. The longshot raced against the track bias to post a one-length score as Calvin Borel brought the bay colt from the back of the pack when speed was winning everything that afternoon at Gulfstream.

More Than Willing is the only horse in the field with a win at nine panels after breaking his maiden the day after Dunkirk burst on the scene. His trainer Ken McPeek has not had the best of times of late, after Danger to Society failed to fire in the Holy Bull and Free Country finished up the track in the Sam F. Davis, so one should be hesitant of wagering too much on the son of More Than Ready.

American Dance will be venturing on the track for the first time since late November, when he finished third to Old Fashioned in the Remsen Stakes. Those backing the Virginia-bred horse will be hoping that most of these previously- mentioned colts will not be up to the task when facing winners

Two longshots to keep in mind are Stately Character and Saint Reade. Having to break from the two outside posts will make things a bit difficult, but both must be respected.

Stately Character ran fifth in the Holy Bull but with the top two finishers running one-two around the track, there was zero chance for him to close on the speed-favoring surface, especially after breaking slow from the gate.

Saint Reade has yet to race on dirt, with three Polytrack efforts at Woodbine in 2008 and a turf start at Gulfstream after a two-month layoff. Look for an improved effort if he's able to break cleanly from the gate.

The choice is Alma d'Oro to make it two straight victories with a convincing performance over Dunkirk, who'll rally for second. Take a shot with Stately Character or Saint Reade to round out the trifecta.

PASSING THE FIRST TEST

Old Fashioned, the second choice in the first Future Wager at 7-1, did not disappoint in his '09 debut with an easy 3 -length win in the Southwest Stakes. The undefeated son of Unbridled's Song tracked the speedy Silver City for most of the race and pulled away impressively under a hand ride in the final furlong.

The final time for the two-turn mile was an average 1:37 2/5 and his last quarter of 26 2/5 will not impress many experts. However, it was his first start since November, and trainer Larry Jones has had little problem the past two years prepping a horse for the Kentucky Derby with Hard Spun and Eight Belles both finishing second.

Another horse in the Southwest that ran exceptionally well despite a fourth- place finish was Flat Out. The bay colt lost all chance at the start failing to get out of the game costing him a good five lengths. After a very slow first quarter, the winner of the Smarty Jones Stakes ran his middle half in 47 2/5 and ended up losing by just 4 -lengths. Look for a much-improved performance in his next outing.

CHOCOLATE ON VALENTINE'S DAY?

The other two major three-year-old preps last weekend came from California and Florida.

Heavily-favored Chocolate Candy won the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate by just one-half length over Massone, while covering the 1 1/8 miles in 1:50 2/5. The Jerry Hollendorfer-trained colt has now won four of his last five starts, with the lone defeat coming in the grade one Cash Call Futurity.

If the El Camino Real Derby was "chalk city," then the Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs was quite the opposite. The $2 exacta returned $893.80 as 13-1 General Quarters easily bested 33-1 shot Sumo to win by 3 -lengths.

The winner broke the stakes record and came within 2/5 of a second of the track record for 1 1/16 miles in his first race sans blinkers. Claimed for $20,000 in his first start, the late-developing son of Sky Mesa has flourished in Florida with a win and two seconds in three stakes events and could be a force in the Tampa Bay Derby on March 14.

THE DESERT AND MORE

Midshipman (132) and Vineyard Haven (32) were last year's top two vote getters for the two-year-old male Eclipse Award. However, a colt that garnered just a single vote is getting the most attention of the three.

Desert Party won his first two starts last summer, including a victory over Vineyard Haven in the Sanford Stakes, before finishing fourth in the Hopeful. The April foal grabbed the rubber match last Thursday by winning the UAE 2,000 Guineas.

Two other colts made inroads last Saturday as Imperial Council and Captain Cherokee proved victorious in allowance level races at Gulfstream and Fair Grounds, respectively.

Making his first start since October, Imperial Council rolled past Z Day inside the eighth-pole to win by two lengths in 1:16 3/5 for the 6.5-furlongs. Look for the son of Empire Maker to stretch out in his next start against tougher competition.

Captain Cherokee won by 2 -lengths over a sealed sloppy track but Midnight Lute's half brother must continue to improve in order to be taken seriously as a Kentucky Derby contender.

The Steve Asmussen-trained colt needed 1:47 2/5 to finish the 1 1/16 event, while Fierce Thunder, who ran second to Captain Cherokee in mid-January, ran his 8.5-furlongs in 1:46 4/5 earlier in the day.

THE NEW TOP 10

Old Fashioned remains second behind Giant Oak in the latest Jeff Frank Top 10. Desert Party is the only new entry coming in at number nine.

1) Giant Oak; 2) Old Fashioned; 3) Pioneerof The Nile; 4) Flying Pegasus; 5) Charitable Man; 6) Alma d'Oro; 7) Mr. Fantasy; 8) Papa Clem; 9) Desert Party; 10) Theregoesjojo.



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