Already with a handful of prospects for next month’s $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1), a race he won in 2020, trainer Mike Maker may wind up strengthening his hand following Saturday’s $200,000 Fort Lauderdale (G2) at Gulfstream Park.
Maker entered three horses in the 1 1/8-mile Fort Lauderdale for 3-year-olds and up, one of five stakes, four graded, worth $650,000 in purses on an 11-race program. It is one of two scheduled for the Gulfstream turf course along with the $100,000 Suwannee River (G3), a prep for the inaugural $500,000 Pegasus World Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1).
Other Saturday stakes are the $150,000 Harlan’s Holiday (G3) for 3-year-olds and up, a 1 1/16-mile prep for the $3 million Pegasus World Cup (G1), $100,000 Sugar Swirl (G3) and $100,000 Rampart, each for fillies and mares 3 and older. First race post time is noon.
Since the Pegasus Turf debuted in 2019, four of its runners have come from the Fort Lauderdale including winners Largent, second by a neck to stablemate Colonel Liam in January, and Instilled Regard, third to Maker-trained Zulu Alpha in 2020. In defense of his title, Maker ran third with 14-1 long shot Cross Border in 2021, beaten two necks.
Maker will send out two of the seven horses he nominated to the Fort Lauderdale, Atone and Media Blitz, as well as supplemental entry Order and Law. Three Diamonds Farm’s Atone is a 4-year-old Into Mischief gelding with four wins in nine career tries on grass, two of them coming in his last three starts, most recently a 2 ½-length optional claiming allowance triumph Nov. 21 at Aqueduct.
Media Blitz will be making his first start since Maker spent $100,000 to claim the 4-year-old Medaglia d’Oro colt for himself out of a third-place finish Nov. 26 at Del Mar. He has faced graded company twice previously this year, finishing off the board in the Del Mar Handicap (G2) and John Henry Turf Championship (G2).
“Nice horse. I think he probably wants to go a little further than a mile and an eighth, but it’s a good place to start with him,” Maker’s assistant trainer, Nolan Ramsey, said. “He’d been running some good races and keeping some pretty good company, too. He’s just a horse we thought would want to stretch out and it’s kind of our niche, so we took a shot.”
Frank’s Rockette Headlines Sugar Swirl
Frank’s Rockette will be on a quest to add another graded-stakes success to her resume Saturday at Gulfstream Park, where the Frank Fletcher Racing Operations Inc.’s homebred filly scored the first stakes victory of her racing career nearly two years ago.
The 4-year-old daughter of Into Mischief is scheduled to race seven other fillies and mares in the $100,000 Sugar Swirl (G3), a six-furlong sprint that will be one of four graded-stakes on Saturday’s 11-race program that will be co-headlined by the $200,000 Fort Lauderdale (G2), a 1 1/8-mile turf stakes for 3-year-olds and up; and the $150,000 Harlan’s Holiday (G3), a 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-olds and up.
After breaking her maiden at first asking at Churchill Downs and finishing second in three Grade 1 stakes in a row in New York, Frank’s Rockette broke through with a victory in the ungraded Any Limit at Gulfstream in the first race of her 3-year-old campaign in February 2020. The Bill Mott trainee went on to win three graded stakes in a row in New York that season.
“What’s so special is that she’s a homebred, so that makes it really nice. Eddie Woods, he broke her, and he said early on that she was going to have speed. He always was kind of enthused about her so we kind of thought she was going to be special,” said Kathy Howard, racing manager for Frank Fletcher Racing Operations Inc.
Howard’s late husband, W. T. Howard, trained Frank’s Rockette’s dam, Rocket Twentyone, a Grade 3 stakes winner who was bought at auction for $300,000.
“My husband trained the mare and then he died unexpectedly, so it’s real emotional for me,” Howard said. “I’m just glad for everything. We’ve always loved the mare and Billy’s really managed her well and put her in good spots.”
Junior Alvarado has the call aboard Frank’s Rockette.
Shifty She Taking Suwannee River Route to Pegasus
As Pegasus World Cup Day looms on the horizon, owners Chris Pallas and Harvey Rothenberg and trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. are hoping to navigate Saturday’s $100,000 Suwannee River (G3) at Gulfstream Park as a way to the inaugural $500,000 Pegasus Filly & Mare Turf (G3) next month.
The one-mile Suwannee River for fillies and mares 3 and up is among five stakes, four graded, worth $650,000 in purses on an 11-race program. It is one of two scheduled for the Gulfstream turf course along with the $200,000 Fort Lauderdale (G2), a prep for the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1).
They are joined by the $150,000 Harlan’s Holiday (G3) for 3-year-olds and up, a 1 1/16-mile prep for the $3 million Pegasus World Cup (G1), $100,000 Sugar Swirl (G3) and $100,000 Rampart, each for fillies and mares 3 and older. First race post time is noon.
Shifty She became a graded-stakes winner in her most recent start, a front-running 1 ½-length triumph in the one-mile Noble Damsel (G3) Oct. 23 at Belmont Park. It followed a summer and fall away from her South Florida home that included a third in the Aug. 8 De La Rose at Saratoga and fourth in the Sept. 11 Ladies Turf (G3) at Kentucky Downs, beaten 1 ¾ lengths each time.
“She knocked heads at Saratoga and it was a good run. She looked like a winner and got a little tired. At Kentucky Downs it was the same thing, and then she obviously capped it off at Belmont,” Joseph said. “She’d been holding good company before that, and obviously that was a breakthrough race. She got a Grade 3 win under her belt, which is huge for her career after racing. It was important to get that and, hopefully, she can continue to build on that going forward.”
There was some consideration given to training Shifty She up to the Pegasus program, scheduled this year for Jan. 29, but the Suwannee River gives the 5-year-old Gone Astray mare six weeks to the 1 1/16-mile Filly & Mare Turf and comes at a distance where she is 3-for-6 lifetime.
Fearless Seeks Rebound in Harlan’s Holiday
Repole Stable’s Fearless will make a bid to return to graded stakes-winning form while making his second start off a six-month layoff in Saturday’s $150,000 Harlan’s Holiday (G3) at Gulfstream Park.
The Harlan’s Holiday, a 1 1/16-mile stakes for 3-year-olds and up, and the $200,000 Fort Lauderdale (G2), a 1 1/8-mile turf event for 3-year-olds and up, will co-headline Saturday’s program, on which the $100,000 Sugar Swirl (G3), a six-furlong sprint for fillies and mares, the $100,000 Suwannee River (G3), a mile turf stakes for fillies and mares, and the $100,000 Rampart, a mile event for fillies and mares, will be renewed.
The Harlan’s Holiday and Fort Lauderdale are preps for the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) and the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1), respectively, Jan. 29 at Gulfstream. The Suwannee River is a prep for the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G3) on the same program.
Fearless is coming off a second-place finish in the Nov. 21 Miami Gardens overnight handicap, in which he lost for the first time in fourth starts at Gulfstream. The 5-year-old Ghostzapper gelding was the even-money favorite in his first start since finishing third in the May 14 Pimlico Special (G3).
“He likes the track and he ran a good race off the layoff, so we’re thinking that should set him up good for the Harlan’s Holiday,” trainer Todd Pletcher said.
Prior to coming up a length short of beating Girolamo’s Attack, Fearless had gone 3-for-3 at Gulfstream, including a victory in the Feb. 27 Gulfstream Park Mile (G2).