All eyes on Gulfstream Saturday
February 27, 2019 3:00 AM
by Jon Lindo
It is time for horse racing’s version of March Madness.
The Kentucky Derby qualifying points go up, and it is time for three-year-olds with Triple Crown aspirations to get back to serious work and earn enough points in key Derby preps to secure a spot in the Derby starting gate on the first Saturday in May.
The Grade II $400,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes is the highlight of a quality card at Gulfstream Park this Saturday, and most eyes will be on Hidden Scroll. Trained by Bill Mott, who is not known for cranking up his youngsters for their debuts, Hidden Scroll was the talk of the Pegasus World Cup undercard in January when he set a blistering pace in the slop and kept on going to win his one mile career debut by 14 lengths.
Hidden Scroll earned the highest Beyer Speed Figure of any three-year-old this year in the process — a lofty 104. His ability to handle two turns, a fast track, and plenty of top notch competition will tell horseplayers a lot about whether that debut was good as it appears.
Undefeated Grade III Nashua Stakes winner Vekoma (trained by George Weaver) will make his sophomore debut on Saturday, and while his rather rough way of travelling suggests he may have trouble staying sound down the line, he has proven quality and two- turn form.
Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club winner Signalman also makes his three-year-old debut for trainer Ken McPeek. Signalman has recently outworked stablemate and recent Grade II Holy Bull Stakes winner Harvey Wallbanger in the morning, so he appears ready to pick up where he left off.
The undefeated Global Campaign jumps into Stakes company for the first time after beating Allowance company under wraps over the same track and distance February 9. The son of Curlin could easily pass this important class test.
Grade I-placed Code of Honor will try two turns for the first time after finishing a dull fourth in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes January 5, his first outing since October. He is yet another well regarded soph who has six works since his comeback and could bounce back in the Fountain of Youth.
It looks like Hidden Scroll could be the speed of the speed, and if he improves with racing like most youngsters from the Mott stable, he could be something special.
The Fountain of Youth is easily the most difficult Derby prep so far in 2019, so whoever wins the 50 Kentucky Derby qualifying points will have to earn them.
Santa Anita closes main track
Santa Anita Park announced on Sunday that its main track would be closed after training hours on Monday and all day Tuesday to evaluate the sub-surface following a series of injuries last weekend.
In Friday’s finale, Hot American suffered a catastrophic injury on the turf and had to be euthanized. Saturday morning, Grade I winner Battle of Midway, who was prepping for the $12 million Dubai World Cup, and a Maiden named Just Forget It were injured while training on the main track and both had to be put down.
Santa Anita originally announced Sunday afternoon the main track would be closed on Monday and Tuesday. However, after understandable outcry from horsemen who had scheduled workouts on Monday, including trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, who flew out jockey Javier Castellano from Florida to work undefeated three-year-old Instagrand, the track adjusted the closure to allow training Monday morning.
On Monday, the Maiden Charmer John broke down in a work and became the fourth horse to be euthanized in a four-day period.
So far at this meet, according to officials from the California Horse Racing Board, there have been five fatalities in races on turf, six fatalities in races on dirt, and another eight fatalities during training on the main track (one other fatality since December 24 was attributed to illness).
For a comparison, during the same seven-week period in 2018, including dirt races, turf races, and training, there were a combined 10 fatalities. In 2017, that number was eight.
Santa Anita has received over 11 inches of rain in the last month along with near-record cold temperatures. But with the forecast for moderate temperatures early this week, Santa Anita will peel back the top layer of the track cushion (approximately five inches) to thoroughly examine sub-surface conditions such as moisture content and soil consistency.
Mick Peterson, a track safety expert and the Director of the University of Kentucky’s Agricultural Equine Programs, also evaluates soil samples from Santa Anita on a regular basis and was to be on site to review Santa Anita’s sub-surface and surface data. Track Superintendent Andy LaRocco will examine the entire track surface and if any issues are discovered will address those areas.
Santa Anita’s Chief Operating Officer Tim Ritvo told the Daily Racing Form on Sunday, “We hope to put everyone’s mind at ease. We think the track is in good shape. We want to pull back the base and make sure there is no erosion or runoff. We’ll be able to work on it if we don’t have any problems.”
Racing is scheduled to resume on Thursday with a first post time of 1 p.m. Pacific if everything goes according to plan.
Lindo Report Play for Gaming Today: Santa Anita Friday Race 8 — Roadster (No. 4). This Friday Allowance race has the look of a Kentucky Derby prep with Nolo Contesto, Dessman, and Roadster in the lineup. Roadster has worked in fantastic fashion for his first start since September, gets Mike Smith, and figures to get first run on those main rivals.
Remember that trainer Bob Baffert has his horses fit and ready off layoffs and he is the play.
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