Expectations for Fort McHenry were obviously high when Derrick Smith, Mrs. John Magnier and Michael Tabor bought the son of Tapit for $1.1 million at the 2018 Keeneland September sale.
Being a half-brother to California Chrome, the two-time Horse of the Year who won the 2014 Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness Stakes (G1), has done nothing to lessen hopes for the Todd Pletcher-trained 2-year-old.
Fort McHenry will have the opportunity to take a big step toward living up to expectations in Saturday's $75,000 Smooth Air at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Fla.
The Smooth Air will be one of six stakes on the Juvenile Showcase program that will kick off the 2019-'20 Championship Meet stakes schedule of 96 stakes, including 39 graded stakes, worth $28.6 million in purses.
Fort McHenry is coming off a dominating 5 ½-length victory in a mile maiden special weight race at Gulfstream Park West Nov. 2.
The Kentucky-bred colt debuted at Saratoga Aug. 17, finishing fifth after pressing the pace during a wide trip in an off-the-turf seven-furlong. He showed marked improvement when sent around two turns for the first time in a mile maiden event at Gulfstream Park West Oct. 4, closing steadily to finish second, beaten by three-quarters of a length after stalking the pace on the outside.
Fort McHenry recovered from a stumbling start in his Nov. 2 maiden-breaking win to take command rounding into the backstretch and drew off to a comfortable score.
“It seems like his last two races he's starting to put things together,” Pletcher said. “He's an exciting colt, a half-brother to California Chrome, so we're happy to see him making progress.”
Luis Saez is scheduled to ride Fort McHenry for the first time Saturday.
The Smooth Air will feature a rematch between Fort McHenry and Gemo, who edged the Todd Pletcher-trained colt by three-quarters of a length Oct. 14 at the mile distance.
Rodrigo Cunha's homebred colt got the jump on Fort McHenry to hold a clear lead in the stretch and continued gamely to hold off the favorite. Trained by Rohan Crichton, the son of Gemologist had previously finished off the board in his debut before finishing a game third in his second start.
Jeffrey Sanchez has the return mount.
OGMA Investments LLC's Soros, who finished second behind Fort McHenry in his Nov. 2 debut, will seek to break his maiden in the Smooth Air. The Gustavo Delgado-trained son of Commissioner finished 5 ½ lengths behind the Pletcher trainee in his debut while finishing another 5 ½ lengths clear of the third-place finisher. Hall of Famer Edgard Prado has the return mount.
Stud Recoveco LLC's Peruvian Boy is scheduled to make his first start since being transferred to trainer Antonio Sano Saturday. The son of Tapiture finished fourth in the Saratoga Special (G2) and third in the Arlington Washington Futurity.Peruvian Boy will be ridden by Emisael Jaramillo.
Arindel's Poe will stretch out to a mile after winning an entry-level optional claiming allowance and finishing third in the Juvenile Sprint at 6 ½ furlongs in two recent starts at Gulfstream Park West. Trainer Stanley Gold has awarded the return mount aboard the son of Brethren to Jairo Rendon.
Arindel's Genghis returns to dirt after finishing third in the Juvenile Turf for Florida-breds at Gulfstream Park West last time out. Rajiv Maragh will ride the Juan Alvarado-trained colt.
D'archer, Gangly, At the Beach and My First Grammy round out the field.
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