Gulfstream Park Opening Day News and Notes

December 3, 2021

Smile (G3) Winner Miles Ahead Tops CC Rapid Transit

Causalistic Seeks to Break Through in CC Iron Horse  

Imaginary Stables, Dobles Triple Up for Claiming Crown

 HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – David Melin, Laurie Plesa and Leon Ellman’s Miles Ahead will bring graded-stakes credentials into Saturday’s $85,000 Rapid Transit at Gulfstream Park, which will host the $810,000 Claiming Crown on the first weekend of the 2021-2022 Championship Meet.

            The Eddie Plesa-trained 4-year-old gelding, who captured the $200,000 Smile Sprint (G3) at Gulfstream Park July 3, will seek to make amends for a subpar showing last year in the Rapid Transit, a seven-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds and up who have raced for a claiming price of $16,000 or less in 2020-2021.

            The Claiming Crown Rapid Transit, a seven-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds and up who have run for a claiming price of $16,000 or less in 2020-2021, is one of nine starter stakes on Saturday’s 11-race program with a noon first-race post time.

            Miles Ahead’s career got off to a most inauspicious start when he was eased in his December 2019 debut in a $50,000 maiden claiming race on turf. The son of Competitive Edge pulled off a Jekyll and Hyde act while taking to Gulfstream’s main track for his second career start, graduating by 12 ½ lengths in a $12,500 maiden claiming race.

“I didn’t think we’d lose him, and I wasn’t sure he would like the dirt. He was kind of a peculiar horse at that time. His works were unimpressive. The reason I put him on the turf the first time was he didn’t really show anything on dirt. He ran miserably [on turf],” Plesa said. “We said, ‘He’s not showing anything. Let’s go ahead an put on the dirt and throw a set of blinkers on him,’ hoping that everything turns out OK. Low and behold, he won by the length of the stretch. That was eye-opening for us,” he added. “Needless to say, I was very happy to find out we didn’t lose him.”

Miles Ahead, who was purchased for $175,000 at the 2019 OBS March 2-year-olds-in-training sale, went on to become a reliable and productive allowance and starter allowance runner in 2020 before blossoming into a graded-stakes winner this year.

            “He’s just kind of taken off,” Plesa said. “That [maiden claiming] race made him eligible for starter races, which is the reason he’s eligible for this race, and he’s capped it off with a graded-stakes win.”

            Miles Ahead, who finished a close second behind multiple graded-stakes winner Diamond Oops in an overnight handicap leading up to the $200,000 Smile Sprint, put it all together in the Smile, which co-headlined the July 3 Summit of Speed program with the $350,000 Princess Rooney (G2). The Kentucky-bred gelding stalked the pace while racing clear on the outside before sweeping to the lead at the top of the stretch under Victor Espinoza and holding off Chance It.

            “He deserved to be in the race. Edwin Gonzalez was supposed to ride him, but he got hurt that day earlier on in the program. We were lucky to pick up a top rider, who had flown in from California, and everything clicked,” Plesa said “It was a great win for the horse and it was great for us.”

            Melin, Ellman and Plesa’s wife, Laurie, have enjoyed a most successful partnership for many years, most notably with Itsmyluckyday, a Grade 1 winner of $1.7 million who won the 2013 Holy Bull (G2) before finishing second in the Florida Derby (G1).

            “I’ve trained for David Melin for, say, 32 or 33 years. Leon Ellman is a friend and business associate of David’s. Our partnership has been in business for about 10 years,” Plesa said.

            Miles Ahead was shipped to Saratoga following his Smile win for a start in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt (G1), in which he encountered early bumping and finished ninth after an extremely wide trip. In his most recent start in a five-furlong off-the-turf overnight handicap at Gulfstream, he closed with a rush from far back to finish second, a neck short of victory.

            Paco Lopez, who has won three of four starts aboard Miles Ahead, has the mount Saturday.

            Owner/trainer Kathleen O’Connell’s Well Defined will also bring graded-stakes credentials into the Rapid Transit. The 5-year-old gelded son of With Distinction, who captured the 2019 Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs, has enjoyed a profitable 2021 campaign, during which he has won five races, including the $100,000 Benny The Bull.

            Luca Panici has the call on Well Defined.

            Travin Stables’ Lookin At Roses, who finished fourth in the Greenwood Cup (G3) at Parx prior to winning a starter allowance at Laurel last time out; Imaginary Stables and Elizabeth Dobles’ Pudding, a overnight handicap winner at Gulfstream after being claimed for $25,000 during the summer; Frank Calabrese’s Financial System, who just missed in optional claiming allowance company in his first start off a $10,000 claim; and Michele and Lawrence Sargent’s Legal Deal, a last-out winner who finished third behind Miles Ahead and Well Defined in a starter allowance last summer; are also entered in the Rapid Transit.

            I’m a G Six, Fortunate Friends, Motataabeq, and Star Sign round out the 11-horse field.

                        Causalistic Seeks to Break Through in CC Iron Horse  

            If bettors place a premium on the company he’s kept, Mastic Beach Racing’s Causalistic may well get a second look while handcapping Saturday’s $75,000 Claiming Crown Iron Horse Kent Stirling Memorial, a starter stakes for 3-year-olds and up that have started for a claiming price of $8,000 or less, at Gulfstream Park.

            Although winless in six starts since being claimed for $6250 last spring, the Diane Morici-trained 4-year-old gelding has been holding his own against some heady company, including stablemate Tune In.

            In his most recent start, Causalistic finished third behind Mastic Beach Racing’s Tune In and runner-up Ludington, who will be well supported by bettors in the $125,000 Jewel, the Claiming Crown headliner. Tune In has won six races while finishing in the money in his last nine starts.

            “Causalistic came out of his last race better than he went into his last race, so he’s going to be tough also,” Morici said.

            The 1 1/16-mile Iron Horse, which will kick of the Claiming Crown portion of Saturday’s card in Race 3, attracted a field of nine. Heehaw Racing’s Trappezoid appears to be the horse to beat off a sterling record since being claimed for $6250 last January. The Jorge Delgado-trained 6-year-old has gone on to win five time and finish three times in his next eight starts.

            Jason Woodruff’s Blue Steel, a romping 6 ½-length winner at Indiana Downs last time out, and Dave Hearn’s Zanesville, a starter allowance winner at Churchill Downs last out, have shipped in for the Iron Horse.

            Souper Fly Over, One Eyed Jack, Brasstown, County Court and Uncle Curly are also entered.

                        Imaginary Stables, Dobles Triple Up for Claiming Crown

            John Guarnere’s Imaginary Stables and trainer Elizabeth Dobles have teamed up for many successful claims at Gulfstream Park over the years, including Harry’s Ontheloose, who will run in Saturday’s $90,000 Claiming Crown Canterbury, a five-furlong turf sprint for 3-year-olds and up that have run for a claiming price of $25,000 or less in 2020-2021.

            Harry’s Ontheloose, who was claimed for $35,000 in April but had run for a price as low as $20,000, has established himself as one of the best turf sprinter at Gulfstream, where the 5-year-old son of Uncaptured captured the Miami Beach Handicap in August.

            “He was a great claim. When he ran, I saw he always gave his all. He’s never let me down,” Dobles said. “With this race coming up, it looks like there is going to be more speed than his other races. I’m hoping he’ll sit off them and do what he’s been doing.”

            Imaginary Stables and Dobles will also be represented by Pudding in Saturday’s $85,000 Rapid Transit, a seven-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds and up that have run for a claiming price of $16,000 or less in 2020-2021.

            Pudding was claimed for $25,000 in July and came right back to win an overnight handicap in his next start. The 6-year-old son of Two Step Salsa is coming off a tough-beat in an optional claiming allowance.

“That was a bit of a disappointment – getting beat by a nose. It feels like losing completely. But he’s doesn’t disappoint. He’s one of my favorite horses.”

           Imaginary Stables and Dobles claimed Passion Plus for $20,000 out of her last race on the Tapeta Course and will run her right back in the $95,000 Claiming Crown Tiara, a 1 1/16-mile turf race for fillies and mares that have run for a claiming price of $25,000 or less in 2020-2021.

            “I claimed her because her past performances were good. Her last race was on Tapeta and she bombed,” Dobles said. “I’m hoping when I get her back on the dirt, she’ll go back to what she was.”

Press Release : Gulfstream Park

Photo: Gulfstream Park, Coglianese Photos

@jonathanstettin Great article!

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