(Henley’s Joy winning at KY Downs / Photo Courtesy of KY Downs)
From the Gulfstream Park Media Team:
The way Jeff Bloom describes it, his Pegasus Turf runner Henley’s Joy often proves the Murphy’s Law adage: “If things can go wrong, they will go wrong.” Though the 4-year-old colt scored a victory in the Belmont Derby Invitational (G1) in July and has earned over $1 million already, Bloom said he is adept at finding trouble.
“He’s arguably one of the toughest-luck horses that I’ve ever had,” said Bloom, who operates Bloom Racing Stable. “He got to display his talent in the Invitational. He’s a horse that has had a lot of bad trips. He’s a horse that we try to find firm, dry turf for. No matter where we take him, we end up finding wet and rain.
“Hopefully the rain stays away,” he added. “He’s a horse that definitely prefers a firm course without a lot of give in it. The talent is there. If he gets the right trip he’s the kind of horse that could show up in the winner’s circle.”
Bloom purchased the chestnut son of top turf sire Kitten’s Joy as a 2-year-old in 2018 for $50,000. He is named for Don Henley, co-founder of the Eagles. Julien Leparoux will ride Henley’s Joy for the first time Saturday.
(Irad Ortiz, Jr. / Photo by Holly M. Smith)
Ortiz with Rare Mount for Baffert in Pegasus World Cup (G1)
Two-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. doesn’t ride for trainer Bob Baffert very often because they are based a continent apart, Ortiz in the east and Baffert in California.
The infrequent Ortiz-Baffert partnership will make its 11th start in seven years Saturday when Ortiz guides Mucho Gusto in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) presented by Runhappy at Gulfstream Park. They have one win together, the first time Ortiz rode for Baffert, aboard Brigand on Jan. 20, 2013 in the $75,000 Turnofthecentury Stakes at Aqueduct.
Baffert used Ortiz three more times in 2013, twice in 2015, then reconnected last year when Ortiz rode Improbable to a four-place finish in the Kentucky Derby (G1).
Baffert planned to offer Ortiz the mount on Mucho Gusto if he ran him in the one-mile Fred Hooper (G3) on the Pegasus undercard. When Baffert decided instead to go in the marquee race of the day, Ortiz was available and picked up the mount.
Baffert won the inaugural Pegasus with Arrogate in 2017 and was second with West Coast in 2018. Ortiz has not finished in the top three in his two starts in the race – Gunnevera (sixth) in 2019 and Sharp Azteca (eighth) in 2018.
(Trainer Peter Miller / Photo by Holly M. Smith)
World of Trouble Sprint Features Texas Wedge, Pay Any Price
Altamira Racing Stable, Rafter JR Ranch, STD Racing Stable and A. Miller’s Texas Wedge will bring his graded-stakes winning form to Gulfstream Park Saturday to face 18-time winner Pay Any Price and six other rivals in the $150,000 Hill ‘n’ Dale World of Trouble Sprint.
The five-furlong turf dash for 4-year-olds and up is the first of nine stakes, six graded, worth $5.2 million on a 12-race Pegasus World Cup Day program anchored by the $3 million Pegasus World Cup (G1) and $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1), both presented by Runhappy.
Texas Wedge, based in California with trainer Peter Miller, kicked off his 5-year-old season with a three-quarter-length victory in the 5 ½-furlong Joe Hernandez (G2) on New Year’s Day over Santa Anita’s turf course. It was the first stakes win in 13 starts for the Colonel John gelding, one of four horses Miller shipped east for Saturday including multiple Grade winner Mo Forza in the Pegasus Turf.
“He had some trouble that day but he was able to overcome it. He’s a really cool little horse and he’s doing very well. We’re hoping he likes that grass over there,” Miller said of Texas Wedge. “I’m very fortunate that I’m bringing over horses that really fire every time. Whether he’s good enough or not, this is probably a little tougher race than he won but he’s doing very well and I know he always tries hard.”
Overall, Texas Wedge has finished third or better 10 times and earned $313,500 in purses.
“He’s just a neat little gelding,” Miller said. “I bought him for $30,000 at Ocala and he’s just been a great horse for us. Hopefully he can run his race on Saturday.”
Averill Racing and Matties Racing’s Pay Any Price launched his 10-year-old campaign with a front-running neck triumph Jan. 5 in a five-furlong optional claiming allowance at Gulfstream. He owns 16 wins at the distance, 15 over the local course and eight career stakes victories including the world record of 53.61 seconds for five furlongs on the grass in the 2017 Silks Run.
Breaking alongside Pay Any Price from Post 3 is Ron Paolucci Racing’s Fielder, making his debut for trainer Peter Walder after fetching $100,000 during Fasig-Tipton’s Midlantic December 2019 Mixed Sale at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium.
Winner of the 2018 Marshall Jenney Stakes, a five-furlong Parx turf sprint, Fielder was third and second, respectively, in the 2018 and 2019 Laurel Dash, also sprinting on the grass, beaten 1 ¼ lengths combined.
“Looking at his form, he looks like he’s legit. He tries hard and he’s run against some tough competition. He worked really the other day,” Walder said. “He bought the horse with this race in mind, and here we are.
“For $100,000 it looks like he’s worth that kind of money,” he added. “He’s run against some good horses and held his own, so why not? You get a free horse if he happens to win and Ron’s a big participant in racing down here, whether it’s Claiming Crown Day or Pegasus Day or any day in between. He’s a big supporter of local racing and I don’t think we’re swinging for the fences here.”