Cherry Wine ran with some of the best horses in the country last spring, finishing third in the Blue Grass (G1) and second by a nose over Florida Derby (G1) and Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Nyquist in the Preakness Stakes (G1).
A since-corrected breathing issue was to blame when Cherry Wine's form tailed off in the summer and he was well-beaten in his comeback off a three-month layoff in late November, leaving trainer Dale Romans to look ahead to a 2017 campaign.
Pending his breeze over Gulfstream Park's main track Saturday morning, Cherry Wine could kick off his 4-year-old season in the $400,000 Poseidon on the undercard of the $12 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) Jan. 28 at Gulfstream. Like the Pegasus, the Poseidon is run at 1 1/8 miles for 4-year-olds and up.
“It's very possible. We'll see how he works tomorrow and then I'll talk to the owners and see what we want to do,” Romans said. “He's been training very well. I don't know how the race is going to come up but we'll see.”
William Pacella. Frank Jones Jr. and Frank Shoop's Cherry Wine got time off after a 3-year-old season that saw him earn $512,754 from eight starts despite just one win, a six-length optional claiming allowance romp going 1 1/16 miles last January at Gulfstream.
He has had two sharp five-furlong works at Gulfstream this month, going in a bullet 1:00.88 Jan. 8 and following up with a 59.62-second move Jan. 14, sixth-fastest of 46 horses.
“I didn't know what I was going to do, but he's come down here and done well,” Romans said. “I just wanted to come down here and train on him a little bit and he's done so well I think he deserves to run with that bunch, try to give him one more shot with the big ones and see what happens. He's been a nice colt.”
Romans said an operation to fix Cherry Wine's breathing came after he came up empty in the 1 ¼-mile Secretariat (G1) Aug. 13 at Arlington Park. He was never in contention in his return, a 1 11/6-mile optional claiming allowance where he was beaten 9 ¼ lengths as the favorite.
“We had to do throat surgery on him. He kind of lost his wind over the summer and now it looks like he's back to his old self,” Romans said. “We did it after Arlington and we ran him at Churchill and he didn't run well, but I don't think he was comfortable with understanding he could breathe. Now I think he is. He's figured it out. Sometimes it takes a little while for that stuff to set up to work.”
Other horses being considered for the Poseidon include Grade 1 winner Hoppertunity; Grade 2 winner Imperative, an earner of more than $2 million in career purses; and the Todd Pletcher-trained multiple graded stakes-winning stablemates Stanford and Madefromlucky.
Romans is also going to give Prayer for Relief his final breeze Saturday before making his 9-year-old debut in the Pegasus. Romans is still working on securing a rider for the career earner of $2.02 million.
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