After launching his career at Saratoga last summer with style, following up a debut victory with a triumph in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special, very little has gone the son of Malibu Moon's way in three subsequent starts.
Trainer Todd Pletcher is hoping that Corfu will turn things around with the addition of blinkers in Saturday's $100,000 Spectacular Bid, a six-furlong stakes for 3-year-olds, at Gulfstream Park.
A $675,000 purchase at the Barrett's 2-year-olds-in-training sale last March, Corfu has been a beaten favorite in his last three races, a distant ninth in the Hopeful (G1) at Saratoga, a fading second in the Futurity (G2) at Belmont, and a particularly disappointing and troubled fifth in a Laurel stakes.
“Nothing seemed to go right. He didn't get away real well, and I think he's a horse that needs to be up close or on the lead,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “So we put some blinkers on him for this and try to take advantage of his speed and let him do his thing.”
Corfu, the 5-2 morning-line favorite who'll be ridden by Javier Castellano, may be joined in the starting gate by stablemate Trail Blaze, who is coming off a sharp 4 ¾-length victory in his debut at Aqueduct on Nov. 20.
“We entered in a non-winners of one other than (allowance) that did not fill, so we opted to take a look,” Pletcher said. “He was pretty impressive his first time out and I think he certainly ran fast enough to fit (in this race). The concern would be to go from a maiden to a stake, seeing how much seasoning the other horses have.”
The 3-year-old son of Indian Charlie ran 5 ½ furlongs in a swift 1:03 3/5 while closing from off the pace to score at first asking.
“He's a big, nice-looking horse. We weren't surprised that he ran well first time out,” Pletcher said. “He came to us right after Saratoga and we were able to get him ready for a run at Aqueduct. The plan after that was always to bring him down here and see how he develops. I think ultimately he's a horse that will stretch out.”
Jose Lezcano has been named to ride Trail Blaze, who was ridden by Joel Rosario in his debut. Rosario has opted to ride Hollywood Talent, a graded-stakes placed colt bred and owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey and trainer by Wesley Ward.
Hollywood Talent, rated third in the morning line at 4-1, won his debut at Keeneland in April with Rosario aboard before finishing second in the Bashford Manor (G3) at Churchill Downs and third in the Sanford (G2) at Saratoga. After finishing fifth in a Presque Isle stakes, the son of Talent Search rebounded with a 3 ½-length victory at Parx last time out.
Elusive Cowboy, rated fourth at 5-1, has made the climb from claimer to stakes winner in just three lifetime starts. Placed in a $32,000 claiming race for maidens for his debut, the son of Bluegrass Cat overcame an awkward start from his rail post position to score by 10 lengths at Gulfstream in August.
“He's always shown some talent. He had some breathing issues. We did a little surgery on him after that and it's seemed to help him,” trainer Ralph Nicks said. “We placed him in the company he needed at the time. “Talent-wise, it didn't surprise me. He had some issues he had to overcome, and so far he has.”
Two months later, Elusive Blueboy faltered late to finish second behind favored Wildcat Red, who finished first in his first three races before being narrowly beaten in Wednesday's Gulfstream Park Derby.
“He was ridden aggressively that day, and maybe with a little more patience in the middle of the race, he may have held on, or maybe not,” Nicks said.
Elusive Cowboy came back to win an overnight stakes in his most recent start under Jose Alvarez, who has retained the mount in the Spectacular Bid.
Cool Cowboy, a recent stakes winner, and Giancarlo, an impressive maiden-breaker last time out, have been cross entered in the Spectacular Bid and the Pasco at Tampa Bay Downs.
C. Zee, who captured his first victory by 2 ¼ lengths at Gulfstream in his second lifetime start last month, and Just Call Kenny, who followed up a debut victory at Monmouth with a runner-up finish in a Laurel allowance last time out, round out the field.
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