Wachtel Stable, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Gary Barber's Gray Magician won't need to pull a rabbit out of a hat to win Saturday's $150,000 Fred W. Hooper (G3) at Gulfstream Park.
The 4-year-old son of Graydar only needs to offer his best effort to be an imposing foe to 13 rivals in the mile race for 4-year-olds and up, one of nine stakes (six graded) on Saturday's 12-race program that will be co-headlined by the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) presented by Runhappy and the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1) presented by Runhappy.
Gray Magician will make his 4-year-old debut in the one-turn Hooper following a productive 3-year-old season that included a start in the Kentucky Derby (G1). The Southern California-based colt earn his berth in the Derby by finishing second, beaten less than a length by Plus Que Parfait, in the UAE Derby (G2) on the Dubai World Cup (G1) program at Meydan. Although he finished far back in the Run for the Roses, Gray Magician came right back to finish second in the Indiana Derby (G3), win the Ellis Park Derby and finish second in the Smarty Jones (G3) at Parx before winning an optional claiming allowance at Keeneland.
“He's a really hard-knocking, solid horse who's traveled and run on every racetrack,” trainer Peter Miller said. “He's an overachiever. He's a lot like [Grade 1-winning mare] Spiced Perfection. He just a really solid horse that runs every time we send them out there.”
Gray Magician will be looking to rebound from a distant fifth-place finish in the Dec. 28 San Antonio (G2) at Santa Anita.
“I think the one-turn mile suits him. He's never run well at Santa Anita. We just figured we were going to either go to Oaklawn or here and this race made a lot of sense,” Miller said. “Hopefully, he can get back to his winning ways.”
Gray Magician has finished off the board in only four of 14 starts, including his Derby loss at Churchill Downs and his three races at Santa Anita. Joel Rosario has the mount aboard Gray Magician.
LLP Performance Horse LLC's Zenden, who finished fourth after encountering considerable bumping at the start of the seven-furlong Mr. Prospector (G3) at Gulfstream Dec. 21, will stretch out to a mile for the Hooper.
“I think he just got outfooted a little bit last time, and I feel like a mile might be an opportunity for him,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “I'm not sure he's a two-turn horse and he might not be a true six-furlong horse, so this will hopefully be the right distance for him.”
Zenden, a 4-year-old son of Fed Biz, won the six-furlong Buffalo Man and finished second in the seven-furlong Swale (G3) during the 2018-2019 Championship Meet at Gulfstream.
Hall of Famer John Velazquez has been named to ride Zenden.
Trainer Dale Romans will be represented by three horses in the starting gate for the Hooper – West Point Thoroughbreds' Seven Trumpets, Albaugh Family Stable and Brereton Jones' Dak Attack and Frank Jones and Churchill Downs Racing Club's Rare Form.
Seven Trumpets, the 2018 Allen Jerkens (G1) runner-up, is coming off a 2 ¼-length optional claiming allowance at Churchill Downs; Dak Attack is a stakes winner who finished third in the 2019 Mucho Macho Man at Gulfstream; and Rare Form, has been first or second in his last six starts on dirt, all optional claiming allowance races.
Frank Dettori has the mount on Seven Trumpets; Luis Saez will ride Dak Attack, and Flavien Prat has the call on Rare Form.
Ron Paolucci's Storm Advisory, a runner-up in the Mr. Prospector (G3) during Gulfstream's 2018-2019 Championship Meet, is scheduled to make his first start for trainer Peter Walder Saturday.
“He ran last year on Pegasus Day [fifth in G3 Hooper] and ran a good race, and he had some good back numbers. It's the first time that the horse is running for me, and usually you get a good bang for your buck that way,” Walder said. “He's been training like a beast, and Ron wants to take a shot. Everything is lining up good for him – the timing of the race, his last work was really good and he likes this track.”
Tyler Gaffalione is slated to ride Storm Advisory for the first time Saturday.
Paolucci will also be represented by the Bob Hess Jr.-trained Olympic Village, who finished third in a Mahoning Valley stakes who will be ridden by Jose Bracho.
Charles Fipke's Tale of Silence, a graded-stakes winner who finished third in the Hooper last season, enters the Hooper off an off-the-board finish in the Cigar Mile (G1) at Aqueduct. In his previous start the Barclay Tagg-trained 6-year-old son of Tale of the Cat finished second behind Maximum Security in the Bold Ruler (G2).
Jose Ortiz, who rode Tale of Silence in the 2019 Hooper, will return to the saddle.
Marianne Stribling, Force Five Racing and Two Rivers Racing Stable LLC's Phat Man enters the Hooper off a second-place finish behind Pegasus World Cup contender War Story in the Harlan's Holiday (G3) at Gulfstream Dec. 14.
Trainer Kent Sweezey named Irad Ortiz to ride the gelded son of Munnings.
Epic Racing LLC's Epic Dreamer, a 6 ½-length winner in an optional claiming allowance at Gulfstream Dec. 8; Klaravich Stable Inc.'s Free Enterprise, who will make his stakes debut for trainer Chad Brown off an optional claiming allowance romp at Aqueduct Nov. 23; Pantofel Stable, Wachtel Stable and Jerry Zaro's Chewing Gum, a romping winner of an off-the-turf optional claiming allowance winner at Churchill Downs; Victor Lungavite's Gran Omero, the runner-up in the $300,000 Clasico del Caribe at Gulfstream Dec. 8; and Steve Budhoo's, Eye of a Jedi, a stakes winner during Gulfstream's Summer Meet; round out the field.
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