(Sole Volante / Coady Photography)
From the Gulfstream Park Media Team:
Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and Andie Biancone’s Grade 3 winner Sole Volante, unraced since the Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby (G1) and undefeated on turf, tops 31 3-year-olds nominated to the $75,000 Tropical Park Derby Saturday, Dec. 26 at Gulfstream Park.
The Derby and $75,000 Tropical Park Oaks for 3-year-old fillies, both on turf at 1 1/16 miles, are joined on the program by the $75,000 H. Allen Jerkens for 3-year-olds and up going two miles on the grass.
Last fall, Sole Volante broke his maiden at Gulfstream Park West and won the one-mile Pulpit Stakes at Gulfstream to open his career, both on the grass. This year, the Karakonite gelding was moved to the main track and ran third in the Mucho Macho Man, won the Sam F. Davis (G3) and was second in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) before much of racing was paused amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Sole Volante returned to win an optional claiming allowance June 10 at Gulfstream and was sixth just 10 days later in the Belmont Stakes (G1) to lead off a reconfigured Triple Crown series. He lost all chance after being squeezed back at the start of the Kentucky Derby and finished 11th.
Also prominent among Tropical Park Derby nominees are Fancy Liquor, half-length winner of the American Turf (G2) Sept. 5, and Mike Maker-trained stablemate Don Juan Kitten, winner of the James W. Murphy Oct. 3 at Pimlico; 2019 With Anticipation (G3) winner Fighting Seabee; Venezuelan Hug, who captured the Millions Turf Preview Nov. 21 at Gulfstream West; and Dack Janiel’s, third in the Dec. 5 Claiming Crown Jewel.
Waterford Stable’s Speaktomeofsummer, winner of the Lake Placid (G2) this summer at Saratoga, Paradise Farm Corp. and Parkland Thoroughbreds’ Valley View (G3) winner Stunning Sky and Live Oak Plantation homebred American Giant, who captured the one-mile Cellars Shiraz Nov. 7 at Gulfstream West, are among 30 nominees to the Tropical Park Oaks along with fellow stakes winners Ask Bailey, Crystalle, Duopoly, Evil Lyn, Tournesol and Virginia Beach.
Trainer Mike Maker, back-to-back winner of the Allen Jerkens in 2016-2017, has nine of the 26 nominees to this year’s race led by multiple stakes winner Muggsamatic, most recently fifth behind fellow nominee High Noon Rider it the Claiming Crown Express. Also nominated are last year’s runner-up Soglio, second in the 2020 W. L. McKnight (G3); Grade 1-placed Focus Group, winner of the 2019 Pan American (G2) at Gulfstream and 2019 Bald Eagle Derby winner He’s No Lemon.
Stablemates Always Shopping, Cap de Creus Clash in Via Borghese
Always Shopping, a stakes winner on turf and dirt, and stablemate Cap de Creus, seeking her first career stakes victory, will line up together for the first time in Saturday’s $100,000 Via Borghese at Gulfstream Park.
The 3 1/6-mile Via Borghese for fillies and mares 3 and up on the grass will be the fourth stakes try for Gainesway Stable’s Cap de Creus, exiting a fifth in the 1 ½-mile Zagora Oct. 31 over a yielding course at Belmont Park.
A 4-year-old daughter of Tapit, Cap de Creus ran four times during last winter’s Championship Meet, running second in a pair of allowances by a half-length combined and finishing eighth in the The Very One (G3) and fourth in the Orchid (G3).
Overall, Cap de Creus has finished third or better in 10 of 18 starts. Hall of Famer John Velazquez will ride from Post 4 in a field of nine.
“Cap de Creus has consistently run well and we’re trying to get some black type by her name. She’s certainly run well enough to deserve it, she just hasn’t quite done it,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “Always Shopping is coming off a couple of really good efforts and the distance should suit her. I’m happy with both of them.”
Winner of the 2019 Gazelle (G2) last April over Aqueduct’s main track, Repole Stable’s 4-year-old Always Shopping made her grass debut running fourth in the 1 1/8-mile Treasure Coast June 7 and won the 1 1/16-mile Monroe Sept. 7, both over the Gulfstream turf. She was beaten a head when second in the 1 ½-mile Dowager (G3) last out Oct. 18 at Keeneland.
“We always kind of had [turf] in the back of our mind; we were just kind of looking for the right opportunity,” Pletcher said. “She’s a filly that wants a lot of distance and, obviously, there’s more opportunities for those types on the turf.”
Irad Ortiz Jr. rides Always Shopping from Post 8.
In a loaded edition of the $100,000 Mr. Prospector (G3) featuring Grade 1 winners Firenze Fire and Mind Control and defending champion Diamond Oops, Pletcher will send out Shadwell Stable homebred Haikal.
The seven-furlong Mr. Prospector will be the first start for Haikal since running fifth in the Gulfstream Park Mile (G2) Feb. 29 for previous trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. Haikal joined Pletcher after McLaughlin retired to become jockey agent for Luis Saez, and the 4-year-old colt has been training steadily at Palm Beach Downs for his return.
11:30 A.M. Post Time Christmas Eve, No Racing Christmas Day
Gulfstream Park will race four days during Christmas week beginning Wednesday, Dec. 23 and including a special 11:30 a.m. post time on Christmas Eve, Thursday Dec. 24.
There will be no racing Christmas Day.
Racing will return Saturday, Dec. 26 with three turf stakes – the $75,000 Tropical Park Derby for 3-year-olds featuring the return to grass of Grade 3 winner Sole Volante, $75,000 Tropical Park Oaks for 3-year-old fillies, and $75,000 H. Allen Jerkens for 3-year-olds and up going two miles.
Gulfstream will offer racing on both New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.