Grade 3-placed Marconi, briefly on the Triple Crown trail last spring, and stablemate Biblical, making his fourth start of the 2018-19 Championship Meet, head a field of seven set to contest Friday's $100,000 Skip Away at Gulfstream Park.
The 32nd running of the 1 3/16-mile Skip Away for 4-year-olds and up is among 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.
Bridlewood Farm, Mrs. John Magnier, Derrick Smith and Michael Tabor's Marconi fetched $2 million as a yearling in 2016 and kicked off his career the following fall at Aqueduct, breaking his maiden in his second and final start as a juvenile.
Marconi, by Tapit, was third in his sophomore debut in the Withers (G3), and trailed the field into the stretch before passing tired horses to be fifth in the Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream behind 18-1 long shot Promises Fulfilled, who would go on to be a Grade 1-winning sprinter.
The Todd Pletcher trainee made one more start at 3, finishing eighth in the Blue Grass (G2) before being put away for the year. Marconi returned in a one-mile optional claiming allowance Feb. 6 at Gulfstream and closed to be fourth, beaten a head for third.
“Marconi showed some promise as a 3-year-old, and he's a half-brother to [2013 Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) winner] Mucho Macho Man,” Pletcher said. “We feel like a mile and three-sixteenths is going to suit him well.”
China Horse Club International's Biblical exits a gutsy neck triumph from off the pace in a second-level optional claiming allowance going 1 1/16 miles Feb. 23 at Gulfstream. Sixth behind multiple graded-stakes winners Catholic Boy and Avery Island in the 2017 Remsen (G2), Biblical won an entry-level allowance last March and went unraced until his Dec. 7 return, both at Gulfstream, where he is two-for-four lifetime.
“Biblical is coming off a two-other-than allowance win here, and we feel like the distance is attractive for him,” Pletcher said. “He's going from a mile and a sixteenth to a mile and three-sixteenths. We've always felt like he wants more ground, so hopefully that will be the case.”
Pletcher has won the Skip Away five times, with Newfoundland (2004), Bandini (2006) AP Arrow (2007), Micromanage (2014) and Commissioner (2015).
Biblical drew Post 4 with Hall of Famer John Velazquez at 118 pounds, six fewer than co-topweights Sir Anthony and Rocketry. Marconi and two-time defending Championship Meet leading rider Luis Saez will depart from Post 5, also at 118.
Imaginary Stables and Glenn Ellis' Zulu, who fetched $900,000 as a 2-year-old in training, was second in the 2016 Fountain of Youth (G2) and 2017 Skip Away (G3) and won the 2016 Tamarac Stakes for Pletcher at Gulfstream. Now trained by Championship Meet leader Jorge Navarro, the 6-year-old gelding exits a gutsy nose triumph in the 1 1/16-mile Old Hickory Stakes Feb. 18.
Richard Otto's Illinois homebred Sir Anthony upset Pletcher's 2018 Florida Derby (G1) and Holy Bull (G2) winner Audible over a sloppy, sealed track in the Harlan's Holiday (G3) Dec. 15, but was unable to repeat that performance while fifth in the Hal's Hope (G3). He shows three sharp works at Gulfstream since the race for trainer Anthony Mitchell, most recently a half-mile breeze in 47.89 seconds, ranking seventh of 99 horses March 23.
Centennial Farms' Rocketry is entered to make his 5-year-old debut for trainer Jimmy Jerkens, having won stakes in back-to-back starts to close his 2018 campaign. The 1 5/8-mile Temperence Hill Invitational and the 1 ¾-mile Marathon (G2), the latter Nov. 2, marked the son of Hard Spun's first two races on dirt.
Rounding out the field are Realm, winner of the 2018 Alydar last summer at Saratoga, and The Scotsman.
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