Gulfstream Weekend Stakes Offer Florida Sire Stakes Preview
Stakes Winner Reaper Returns in Saturday’s Proud Man
Epona’s Hope Gives Plesa Hope in Sunday’s Sharp Susan
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Saturday’s Proud Man and Sunday’s Sharp Susan, although open stakes for 2-year-olds, will serve as unofficial preview races for the upcoming FTBOA Florida Sire Stakes series at Gulfstream Park.
Seven of the eight entrants in the $65,000 Proud Man are FSS eligible, while five of the seven fillies entered in the $65,000 Sharp Susan are FSS-eligible.
The $100,000 Dr. Fager and the $100,000 Desert Vixen for fillies will kick off the 2023 FTBOA Florida Sire Stakes series Sept. 9. The Proud Man and Sharp Susan will be contested at six furlongs, the distance of the first-leg races of the FSS series.
Arindel’s Reaper, a FSS-eligible son of Brethren, enters the Proud Man as the only stakes winner in the field, having ventured to Prairie Meadows to capture the July 8 Prairie Gold Juvenile. The homebred colt dueled between horses before prevailing by a neck in the 5 ½-furlong sprint.
Reaper is out of Horah for Bailey, whose 12 foals that have raced have all been winners, including Turbo, who finished second in both the Dr. Fager and Affirmed in last year’s FTBOA FSS series after winning first-time out.
“Reaper’s been doing well. He came back right after he ran. He spent a week on the farm and then came down here. He’s had a couple of nice works and he’s acting like himself. I expect him to run another good race,” Arindel’s stable manager Brian Cohen said.
“He’s got a lot of heart. There seems like they’ll be a lot of speed in the race, but we’ll let the jock decide what he wants to do,” he added. “This will probably be the toughest race he’s run. There are a couple other nice ones in there.”
Hector Diaz Jr. is named to ride Reaper for the first time Saturday.
Prevent, a son of Neolithic who is FSS-eligible, will run in the Proud Man for Cohen’s BC Racing LLC after graduating in his second career start.
Arindel’s Lasso, a FSS-eligible son of Brethren who graduated by 3 ½ lengths going away in his June 3 debut, is entered in Saturday’s Saratoga Special (G2) at Saratoga.
“He’s running on Saturday up there. He wants to run longer. Saratoga is 6 ½ [furlongs]. To me, he’s the best of all of them,” Cohen said. “He’s training outstanding for this race. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s [Dr. Fager] not out of the question, but we’re probably going to look at the second and third legs for him.”
BC Racing LLC’s Dickens, who finished third in the Sanford (G3) at Saratoga after winning his debut at Gulfstream, is also an FSS candidate.
Arindel will be represented in the Sharp Susan, by Kiss, a daughter of Army Mule who graduated at Ellis Park before finishing off the board in the Prairie Gold Lassie.
Trainer Eddie Plesa Jr., who has celebrated many FSS successes during the past 25 years, will be well-represented this weekend at Gulfstream Park by Big Effect in the Proud Man and Epona’s Hope in the Sharp Susan.
Big Effect, a son of The Big Beast owned by Leon Ellman, Glassman Racing LLC and Laurie Plesa, came up just short of winning his July 1 debut but came back to graduate impressively with a front-running 6 ¾-length romp at six furlongs July 22.
“He showed a lot in the mornings, so I was expecting him to run good that day (July 1). I think he got out there all by himself and didn’t know what to do. For 2-year-olds, every race is an experience. He got out there and got nailed on the money. I think the horse that nailed him is a nice horse, but for my horse, part of it was just a case of experience,” Plesa said.
In his second start, I made a point [to jockey Edgar Perez], ‘you don’t have to be on the lead.’ He broke sharp and another horse looked like he wanted the lead, so he eased him around that other horse and asked him about the quarter-pole. He ran the way I would have expected,” he added. “The first race was a lesson taught to him and he learned from it for his second start.”
Epona’s Hope, who is also owned by Leon Ellman, Glassman Racing LLC and Laurie Plesa, enters the Sharp Susan off a late-rallying victory in a 4 ½-furlong Florida-bred maiden special weight race June 9.
“She broke OK and got shuffled back. She didn’t save any ground by any means. She came running at the end, so I think the longer the better,” Plesa said. “She’s been away for a while only because of her early success, but she’s been training really good coming into the race.”
Plesa-trained Raging Fury, a son of Ami’s Flatter who graduated at first asking Saturday at Gulfstream Park, is also a Dr. Fager candidate.
“We have some exciting 2-year-olds,” Plesa said. “For me anyways, when the young horses show promise this time of year, it’s a lot easier to get up in the morning. We’re right on target with these three horses.”
Leon King Stable Corp.’s Bentornato, who rallied to register a debut victory over Plesa-trained Big Effect, is slated to return in the Proud Man. The Jose D’Angelo-trained son of Valiant Minister is FSS eligible.
“He’s a very nice horse we think wants to go long. We’re running him to get him ready for the Florida Sire stakes,” D’Angelo said. “He ran so good, and beat Big Effect, who will run in the race too. In his second race, Big Effect ran big. Bentornato is one of my best babies.”
Jacks or Better Farm, Inc., which holds the FSS record with 19 series wins, will be represented in the Proud Man by Northshore Drive, who graduated last time out after finishing an even fifth in the Royal Palm Juvenile on turf. The Ralph Nicks trainee is a son of Fort Loudon, who swept the open division 2011 FFS series.
Nicks will also saddle Stonehedge LLC’s Gentle Breeze, a 12 ¾-length debut winner in a $25,000 maiden claiming race June 25, for the Proud Man, as well as sending Stonehedge LLC’s Kitty’s Pretty into the Sharp Susan off a 5 ¾-length debut victory June 16.
Stonehedge LLC will also be represented in the Proud Man by Keep On Coming, a Michael Yates-trained Khozan gelding who is coming off a May 3 debut victory by 5 ½ lengths.
The only Proud Man entrant not FSS-eligible is Magic Stables LLC and Cairoli Racing Stable and Midnight Racing LLC’s highly promising Divieto, a son of Dialed In who turned in an i9mpressive 4 ½-length debut victory July 21. Divieto is trained by Antonio Sana, who trained another talented son of Dialed In, $5.5 million earner Gunnevera.
All seven of the Proud Man entrants that are FSS eligible will also qualify for the $25,000 FTBOA bonus offered to a registered Florida-bred winner of Saturday’s six-furlong sprint. Four FSS-eligible fillies in the Sharp Susan are qualified for the $25,000 FTBOA bonus offered to a registered Florida-bred winner of Sunday’s six-furlong sprint for fillies.
Case Chambers’ Let Them Watch is a registered Florida-bred that is eligible for the FTBOA bonus in the Sharp Susan, but the daughter of Maximus Mischief is not FSS-eligible. Michael Maker-trained Let Them Watch was a most impressive 6 ½-length debut winner at Gulfstream July 7. Christian Cruz’s She has Class, a daughter of Khozan, is FSS-eligible but is not a registered Florida-bred.
Trainer Jena Antonucci, who saddled Arcangelo for a victory in this year’s Belmont Stakes (G1), will be represented in the Sharp Susan by John Grossi’s Racing Corp.’s Avellino, a front-running eight-length debut winner May 18. The daughter of Adios Charlie is FSS eligible.