(Colonel Liam / Photo by Holly M. Smith)

From the Gulfstream Park Media Team:

Robert and Lawana Low’s Colonel Liam will target the $200,000 Fort Lauderdale (G2) Dec. 31 at Gulfstream Park as the lone prep for his attempt at a third consecutive victory in the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1).

Millionaire Colonel Liam was entered in an optional claiming allowance for 3-year-olds and up scheduled for 7 ½ furlongs on Gulfstream’s new turf course Dec. 15 but was the first of three also-eligibles in an overflow field of 15. The race was later shifted to the all-weather Tapeta course due to rain.

Repole Stable’s multiple stakes winner Never Surprised, runner-up to his stablemate in this year’s Pegasus Turf, was also scratched as an also-eligible from the race.

Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher said the 1 1/8-mile Fort Lauderdale for 3-year-olds and up scheduled on the grass was always the backup plan for Colonel Liam, unraced since finishing ninth in the Dubai Turf March 26 at Meydan Racecourse.

“We’re going to go in the Fort Lauderdale,” Pletcher said. “As it worked out, we probably wouldn’t have run either horse on the synthetic, anyway. We drew the AE and then they took it off, so we’ll go to Plan B.”

Colonel Liam defended his 2021 Pegasus Turf victory Jan. 29 at Gulfstream with a popular one-length triumph – his first race in 239 days after finishing eighth in the Manhattan (G1) last June at Belmont Park. The Fort Lauderdale comes 281 days after the Dubai Turf.

“It’s fine,” Pletcher said. “Ideally, we wanted a little bit more time between races back to the Pegasus, but it is what it is. He runs well off the layoff so, hopefully, he runs well there and moves forward for the big one.”

The 1 1/8-mile Pegasus Turf is one of seven graded stakes worth $5.2 million in purses Jan. 29 at Gulfstream led by the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) and $500,000 Pegasus Filly & Mare Turf Invitational (G3).

Colonel Liam has had seven timed breezes since early November at Palm Beach Downs for his comeback, the most recent a five-furlong move in 1:01.46 Dec. 16 that was the fastest of six horses. He has four wins and a third in five career races at Gulfstream, including a victory in the 2020 Tropical Park Derby as a prep for his first Pegasus run.

Never Surprised is also being pointed to a return in the Pegasus Turf. Winner of last December’s Tropical Park Derby, he held on to finish second after setting the pace in a 1 1/16-mile optional claiming allowance on the turf Dec. 17 at Tampa Bay Downs. It was his first race since a fifth-place finish in the March 5 Canadian Turf (G3) at Gulfstream.

“He got a little tired,” Pletcher said. “The ground was a touch soft, but we got the race into him we were hoping. Hopefully, that brings him forward for the Pegasus.”