This weekend, the racing spotlight will be on South Florida when Gulfstream Park presents a 12-race card that includes four graded stakes, three of them for older horses, and a seven-furlong dirt test for 3-year-olds, the Grade 2 Hutcheson. The Hutcheson kicks off the action with a field of six entered in the eighth race. Thunder Moccasin, favored on the morning line at 7-5, won at first asking on Christmas Eve. He is a son of A. P. Warrior and hails from Todd Pletcher's arsenal of sophomores. Another up-and-comer is Ever So Lucky, trained by Jonathan Sheppard for his longtime owner, George Strawbridge's Augustin Stable. The colt is not a homebred, however; he was purchased for $600,000 out of a Maryland sale last year. A son of Indian Charlie, Ever So Lucky ran second in November's Kentucky Jockey Club following his maiden win.
Next on tap is the G3 Suwannee River, open to females and scheduled to be run on the turf. A field of ten has been drawn, in addition to two more if the race is switched to the main track. Denomination is a multiple Grade 3 winner, exiting a third-place finish in Calder's G3 My Charmer Handicap. Her most formidable competition comes from Heavenly Landing, a winner of three in a row, most recently the G3 Marshua's River last month.
The G1 Donn Handicap looks to be a wide-open affair featuring a couple newly-turned 4-year-olds from last year's Triple Crown versus a couple old pros and a lightly-raced 5-year-old who is undefeated. Rick Dutrow has a pair entered—G3 Discovery winner Redeemed and Trickmeister, who is five-for-five. The speedy son of Proud Citizen won four races in 2010, and was then given 16 months off to cure a cannon bone condition. He returned in December to take the Harlan's Holiday in gate-to-wire fashion; in fact, the only time he's ever been behind another horse was at the start of his first race. Shackleford and Ruler On Ice are familiar names from 2011—the former won the Preakness, the latter, the Belmont. Each gave a good accounting of themselves in their respective Breeders' Cup races. Shackleford was the runner-up in the Dirt Mile, while Ruler On Ice was third in the Classic. Ruler On Ice capped off the year with a fifth-place finish in the G1 Clark Handicap, beaten by Mission Impazible (second) and Flat Out (third), both entered in the Donn.
Another Grade 1 follows the Donn—the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap. A field of 11 passed the entry box, though Al Khali and Sangaree are cross-entered in the Donn, and Sangaree is main track only. Al Khali did not reach the winner's circle in seven starts last year, but was competing at the highest level throughout most of the year. Boisterous has won two in a row, exiting the hero of the G2 Red Smith Handicap. Get Stormy had a very lucrative 2011, with earnings of over $730,000, putting him over the $1 million mark, but ended the year with a disappointing turn in the Breeders' Cup Mile.
Bourbon Bay looks to defend his championship in Santa Anita's G2 San Marcos, the only other graded stakes taking place this weekend. The 6-year-old gelding from Neil Drysdale's barn had a successful 2011 campaign, earning over $360,000 from nine starts. He's been freshened since his runner-up finish in the Nov. 19 Hollywood Turf Cup. That race was won by Sanagas, also entered here. The German-bred, previously trained by Graham Motion, is now with Peter Miller. Also in the field is Norvsky, fifth-place finisher in the Hollywood Turf Cup, who returned to capture the G2 San Gabriel, run over this course Jan. 16.
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