Saeed Naser al Romalthi's 7-year-old gelding Force Freeze, runner-up in the Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) at Churchill Downs last fall, will be the likely favorite in Saturday's $150,000 Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship (G2) going seven furlongs in a field of eight older horses that also includes Rosemary Rausch and David Zell's 6-year-old gelding Capt. Candyman Can.
Jockey Paco Lopez gets back aboard Force Freeze for trainer Peter Walder as the Kentucky-bred by Forest Camp makes his first start since finishing a game second in the Breeders' Cup Sprint on Nov. 5 when beaten a neck by Amazombie, who was later voted Eclipse champion sprinter.
Force Freeze raced in Dubai with mixed success in 2010 and early last year before being sent to Walder at Monmouth Park. In two starts before the Breeders' Cup, Force Freeze won the Teddy Drone Stakes by four lengths in late July and finished a game second by a half-length in the Vosburgh Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park on Oct. 1.
“My only concern is the distance, particularly coming off the layoff” said Walder. “Seven furlongs can be a tricky distance, but Paco (Lopez) is very confident it won't be a problem. He can run with any horse in the country at six furlongs. I'm excited to have him back.”
Jockey Javier Castellano rides Capt. Candyman Can for trainer Ian Wilkes as the veteran sprint stakes performer bids to move forward from a very respectable fourth-place finish in the six-furlong Mr. Prospector Stakes (G3) here on Dec. 31, beaten 1 ¾ lengths. The son of Candy Ride was making his first start since a close-up third-place effort in the Aristides Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs on June 4.
Capt. Candyman Can has won five of six races at the distance, including the Hutcheson Stakes (G2) here as a 3-year-old in late January of 2009. He went on to win the Bay Shore Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct that March and ran another big race in the Kings Bishop (G1) that summer at Saratoga, finishing second by a head, but placed first on the disqualification of Vineyard Haven.
Other contenders that will attract support are E. Paul Robsham Stable's 4-year-old Simba's Story with jockey John Velzquez aboard for trainer Todd Pletcher and Peachtree Stable's 4-year-old Troilus and Elvis Trujillo on a return call for trainer Marty Wolfson.
Simba's Story is a Kentucky homebred by Elusive Quality and makes his stakes race debut while turning back in distance from a hard-fought score going one mile in an allowance race over the track on Jan. 22. He boasts a 7-2-2-2 record and was beaten less than a length for it all in his lone out-of-the-money finish.
A son of Speightstown, Troilus also makes his first start in a stakes after winning three straight, the last two going a mile in allowance races at the meet on Dec. 8 and Jan.1. He has won all three of his starts since joining the Wolfson barn after good second and third-place efforts in tough maiden special events at Saratoga last summer for trainer Steve Margolis.
An intriguing prospect in the Sprint Championship will be Irving Cowan's regally-bred 4-year-old Bold Warrior with jockey Jose Lezcano aboard for Hall of Fame horseman Allen Jerkens. The Kentucky homebred colt is by Bernardini out of Cowan's 1993 Eclipse champion 3-year-old filly Hollywood Wildcat
Bold Warrior has won three of six career starts with two seconds, most recently second by a half-length in the Chief Tamanaco overnight stakes going a mile at Belmont Park on Oct. 15. His first two victories came at Belmont Park last spring and the only time he wasn't one-two came when trying two turns in the Curlin overnight stakes at Saratoga in late July, finishing sixth..
Completing the field are Northpointe Thoroughbreds' Amanecer de Oro, J.L. Castanon; and Just For Fun Stable's pair of Decisive Moment, Sebastian Madrid; and Dixie Slam, Daniel Centeno.
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