Stakes-winning stablemates Uncle B and Uno Emayo, who have combined to win 13 of 57 lifetime starts, make the step up in company against graded-stakes winners Krampus, Doctor Mounty and Hawkish among a field of nine for Friday's $100,000 Appleton (G3) at Gulfstream Park.
The 67th running of the Appleton for 4-year-olds and up going one mile on the turf is one of three $100,000 stakes, two graded, on an 11-race card that serves as a prelude to Saturday's $1 million Xpressbet.com Florida Derby (G1) program. First race post time is 1:15 p.m.
David Caprio's Uncle B had a two-race win streak snapped when he finished third by a length but placed second following the disqualification of Mr Cub for interference in the 7 ½-furlong El Prado Stakes Feb. 9 at Gulfstream.
Five of the six horses from the El Prado went on to compete in the one-mile Canadian Turf (G3) March 2, a race won by Krampus, who finished 1 ½ lengths behind Uncle B while fifth in the El Prado.
“I wanted to put him in the [Canadian Turf], but between everybody they chose not to go. I couldn't keep him on the ground,” trainer Lilli Kurtinecz said. “He's still doing just as well but we'll probably catch a full field. He's good. He's as good as he can be.”
Kurtinecz claimed Uncle B for $16,000 out of a fifth-place finish last January at Gulfstream, and the 5-year-old Zensational gelding won the first three starts for his new connections. He has been worse than third just twice in 10 starts since the claim, five of them wins, and in that time has never been beaten more than two lengths in nine tries over his home course.
Each of the first three finishers of the Appleton will receive a free nomination and travel stipend to the $250,000 San Francisco Mile (G3) April 27, the opener of the two-day Gold Rush Weekend at Golden Gate Fields.
“He's king of the barn. He's the peppermint king. He interrogates everybody that goes by. He's the kind that you just make him happy and he'll perform,” Kurtinecz said. “Honestly, if there's any horse I was ever going to travel with, give me a bag a peppermints and I would be golden. He's honestly that easy.”
Carl Lizza Racing Stables' Uno Emayo debuted for Kurtinecz with a three-quarter length win last fall at Gulfstream West, then was beaten a head when second and three-quarters of a length when third in subsequent starts. The D'Funnybone gelding opened his 6-year-old season Jan. 25 in the Chrysaor Stakes at Gulfstream, where he encountered traffic at the eighth pole making his typical late run and was fifth, beaten only 3 ½ lengths. Third-place finisher Melmich came back to be runner-up in the Mac Diarmida (G2) March 2.
“Uno, he won a state-bred and a starter stakes so he's kind of limited on conditions. There's no starter right now and he's ready,” Kurtinecz said. “He kind of got jammed and stopped in mid-stretch but [Melmich] came back and was second in a Grade 2 and he didn't beat us by much, so he warrants a try at least.”
Uno Emayo is coming off a come-from-behind 1 ¼-length victory in the one-mile Little Magician Feb.18 at Gulfstream. He and Uncle B breezed a half-mile together in 47.75 seconds over the turf at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream's satellite training facility in Palm Beach County, ranking sixth of 58 horses March 23.
“[Uncle B] is speed and [Uno Emayo] comes from out of it, so the exacta would be cool. They're both doing great,” Kurtinecz said. “I know it's in the morning and not in the afternoon, but [Uncle B] is like a monster to work and he hung right with him. And, the gallop out was even better. So, game on.
“It's going to be a rider's race. They'll be longshots … but who knows?” she added. “Uncle B is the best, and Uno, he should be a plow horse, he's so big. But, he can run.”
Jairo Rendon will ride Uncle B from Post 6 in the field of nine, while Rafael Hernandez gets a return call on Uno Emayo from Post 8.
William Schettine's homebred Krampus took a half-length lead into the stretch and held on gamely to win the Canadian Turf by a head in his first graded-stakes attempt. He was bumped at the start and had to take up late in the El Prado, where he ran fifth but was placed fourth via disqualification.
“He ran well,” trainer Bill Mott said. “I like to give him a lot of rest between races. This gives him four weeks. We'll see how he looks and how the race looks. He's coming out of a win so we're not pressed to run, but only if the situation looks good for him.”
Hall of Famer John Velazquez will be aboard Krampus from Post 5 at 124 pounds, sharing topweight with Doctor Mounty.
Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey gave Larry Pratt and Dave Alden's Doctor Mounty plenty of time following his last-to-first move to win the one-mile Tropical Turf (G3) Jan. 12 at Gulfstream. It was his second career graded triumph, following the Baltimore-Washington International Turf Cup (G3) last fall at Laurel Park.
Robert LaPenta, AJ Suited Racing Stable and Madaket Stables' Hawkish has not raced since racing wide on both turns and coming up empty in the 1 ¼-mile Belmont Derby (G1) last July. In his previous start, the gelded son of 2005 Breeders' Cup Mile (G1) winner Artie Schiller was a three-length winner of the Penn Mile (G2) in June. He raced twice at Gulfstream last winter, breaking his maiden at first asking and finishing fourth by three lengths in the Palm Beach (G3).
Rounding out the field are Cowboy's Hero, Dr. Edgar, Holiday Stone and Vici.
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