Dania Beach Winner Tocayo Prepares for Colonel Liam

February 22, 2024

Tocayo scores in the Dania Beach Jan. 6 at Gulfstream Park (Ryan Thompson)

David Joseph/Gulfstream Park

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla.— Lugamo Racing Stable’s Tocayo, a front-running winner of the Dania Beach on the Gulfstream Park turf last month, turned in a sharp half-mile breeze Thursday ahead of a planned start in the $200,000 Colonel Liam March 2.

The Colonel Liam for 3-year-olds, scheduled for one mile on the Gulfstream turf, is one of nine stakes, eight graded, worth $1.85 million in purses on a blockbuster program headlined by the $400,000 Coolmore Fountain of Youth (G2), next stop on the road to the $1 million Florida Derby (G1) March 30.

Tocayo, a bay son of 2017 Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Always Dreaming, went four furlongs in 48.15 seconds over Gulfstream’s main track, third-fastest of 17 horses at the distance.

“He worked very well. He worked well in hand. He continues to train well right up to the race,” trainer Steve Klesaris said. “If all’s well between now and then, we’ll be there.”

Tocayo made his first seven starts on dirt for Laurel Park-based trainer Rudy Sanchez-Salomon, a former Klesaris assistant. Beaten a neck in his turf debut last fall, he came back to win an optional claiming allowance before making his stakes debut in the 7 ½-furlong Pulpit Dec. 9 at Gulfstream.

“He had a very tough trip from an outside post with significant ground loss, but he showed me enough to say to Rudy, ‘Leave this horse here, let’s try him again in the race the next month,’” Klesaris said. “He agreed to leave him and everything worked out well in the Dania Beach. He got a very comfortable pace scenario and just kind of stole the race.”

Tocayo went a half-mile in 50.08 seconds and had plenty left to repel Grade 2 winner Agate Road and win the one-mile Dania Beach by 1 ½ lengths at odds of 13-1. Similarly regarded in his next start, the 1 1/16-mile Kitten’s Joy (G3), Tocayo again led the way into the stretch before settling for third, beaten two lengths.

“Last race was a more legitimate pace and he hung in there to be third,” Klesaris said. “Since coming out of that race he’s trained very forwardly, he’s very fresh, he had a nice workout this morning so right now he’s sitting on all cylinders and all systems are go. We’re looking forward to being there.”

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