Two major handicap events highlight Gulfstream Parks first week of racing in March: the $200,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap (G1) set for Saturday; and the $200,000 Rampart Handicap (G2) to be run Sunday.
The mile and a quarter Gulfstream Park Cap, one of five Grade 1 events presented at the winter meeting, is expected to draw some developing handicap stars in Broken Vow and Gander, as well as veteran performers like Pleasant Breeze.
The Rampart, at a mile and an eighth for fillies and mares, will likely attract such Gulfstream winners as De Bertie, Apple of Kent and Scratch Pad.
Broken Vow, trained by Graham Motion, broke his maiden at Gulfstream last February, then won an optional claiming event here in April. The son of Unbridled never made the classics, but scored at Delaware Park in late April, then won the Sir Barton Stakes at Pimlico on Preakness Day before going to the sidelines.
Motion brought the colt out at Gulfstream for his 4-year-old debut. Broken Vow suffered his first defeat in the seven-furlong event Jan. 7 as he never got untracked and finished seventh. However, in his most recent start, going two turns again, Broken Vow strutted his stuff drawing off to win by nearly five lengths over a solid field of older horses.
Gander, trained by John Terranova II, has been nibbling at the edges in major events. Most recently, he was third behind Captain Steve and Albert the Great in the Donn Handicap (G1). Last year, he was second to Albert the Great in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont.
Pleasant Breeze is the likely successor to Behrens in Jim Bonds barn. Behrens won back-to-back Gulfstream Park Handicaps, beating Archers Bay in 1999 and Adonis last year. The 6-year-old Pleasant Breeze, a son of Pleasant Tap, was fourth in the Donn last out, but last year won the Saratoga Breeders Cup Handicap (G2).
The Rampart usually brings out the best fillies and mares in South Florida. In 1999, it was won by Banshee Breeze, a filly champion the previous season. This running should be up to that standard.
De Bertie, Apple of Kent and Scratch Pad have all scored over the Gulfstream surface.
Bernie Flint trains De Bertie, who won the Sabin Handicap (G3) here in January. Scratch Pad, who took the Grade 2 Alcibiades Stakes at Keeneland as a juvenile in 1999, scored here at first asking in January for Frank Alexander, but was eighth in the Sabin last out. Apple of Kent, who won her U.S. debut last winter here for trainer John Kimmel, scored in her 2001 debut Feb. 3 by more than four lengths.