Maker Sends Out Henley’s Joy, Red Run in G2 Fort Lauderdale

December 27, 2023

Henley’s Joy wins the Belmont Derby Invitational (G1) July 6, 2019, at Belmont Park (NYRA/Coglianese)

David Joseph/Gulfstream Park

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla.— No trainer has had more starters in the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1) than defending champion Mike Maker’s 10, and he’ll have the chance to add to his total depending on how Red Run and Henley’s Joy perform in Saturday’s $200,000 Fort Lauderdale (G2) at Gulfstream Park.

The 66th running of Fort Lauderdale for 3-year-olds and up scheduled for 1 1/8 miles on Gulfstream’s new turf course is the last and richest of four stakes, three graded, worth $600,000 in purses on an 11-race program, and serves as a local prep for the $1 million Pegasus Turf, to be run Jan. 27.

Also on tap are the $150,000 Harlan’s Holiday (G3) going 1 1/16 miles for 3-year-olds and up, a prep for the $3 million Pegasus World Cup (G1); $125,000 Sweetest Chant (G3) on turf and $125,000 Rampart on dirt, both going a mile for fillies and mares 3 and older. The Sweetest Chant serves as a prep for the $500,000 Pegasus Filly & Mare Turf (G2).

There will also be a $100,000 overnight handicap, the St. Augustine, for 3-year-olds and up scheduled for a mile and 70 yards on the all-weather Tapeta course. First race post time is 12:10 p.m.

Maker upset the 2020 Pegasus Turf with Zulu Alpha, still the highest-priced winner at $25.60. His second win came Jan. 28 with Atone, runner up in the 2021 Fort Lauderdale, a race Maker won with Shining Copper in 2018.

“Henley’s Joy will need to really be impressive to go from here to the Pegasus, but Red Run is certainly on track for the Pegasus,” Maker assistant Nolan Ramsey said. “It’ll be interesting to see how he handles the Gulfstream turf, but I think a firmer turf is to his liking. That said, we expect a big effort come Saturday and if he’s 1-2-3 we’ll definitely be considering Pegasus.”

Paradise Farm Corp. and David Staudacher’s Henley’s Joy is a 7-year-old millionaire that earned Grade 1 credentials in the 2019 Belmont Derby Invitational for Maker but hasn’t visited the winner’s circle since. He was moved to Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen after finishing seventh to his stablemate in the 2020 Pegasus Turf, began 2022 in California with trainer Richard Baltas and was claimed back by Maker from another Hall of Famer, Mark Casse, for $62,500 in September.

“He’s a very nice horse. We used to have him at 2, 3 and the beginning of his 4-year-old year. We were familiar with the horse. We had always liked the horse, had the opportunity to claim him and the owners were interested, so we took a shot at him,” Ramsey said. “Obviously, this is no easy spot but he’s doing really well. I think given the right opportunity I hope he kind of turns his form around for us.”

Henley’s Joy was eased to finish last of 11 in a 1 5/16-mile optional claiming allowance Sept. 9 at Kentucky Downs the day he changed barns, but bounced back to be third going 1 1/16 miles over Woodbine’s all-weather surface Oct. 8, beaten 1 ¼ lengths, in his most recent start.

“He ran really well for us last time. We had taken some horses up there that weekend for the Canadian International, and the spot was open. We thought it was a nice spot to bounce back after a clearly disappointing effort at Kentucky Downs the day we claimed him,” Ramsey said. “It was a good start for him to knock the rust off. He’s had plenty of time since then and he’s training well.

“The horse is always right there. He runs his race every time, he just can’t seem to get the job done,” he added. “But he gets a little extra distance in here off his last race and I think the turf’s probably better for him anyhow. We had success with him early on and hopefully our training program fits him back. I’d like to see him run a big race for us.”

Henley’s Joy has four wins, five seconds, six thirds and nearly $1.2 million in purse earnings from 43 starts, and is familiar with Gulfstream, having a win and two seconds from five tries on the grass. Paco Lopez is named to ride from outermost Post 10.

Jordan Wycoff’s Red Run will break from Post 8 with Edgard Zayas aboard in his ninth start since being claimed by Maker for $50,000 out of a runner-up finish March 12 at Oaklawn Park. The 4-year-old son of Gun Runner exits the 1 1/8-mile River City (G3) at Churchill where he found early trouble and wound up eighth, beaten four lengths, over a turf course rated good.

Prior to that Red Run was fourth by 2 ¼ lengths in Keeneland’s 1 ½-mile Sycamore (G3) and won a second-level optional claiming allowance by 1 ¼ lengths going 1 1/8 miles Sept. 14 at Churchill in his first try back on grass after placing twice in long dirt stakes including a third in the 1 ½-mile Brooklyn (G2) at Belmont Park, followed by a fourth in the 1 ¼-mile Suburban (G2).

“A little bit of a disappointing effort last time. We kind of expected more from him. I just don’t think the softer turf was really to his liking. I think he prefers more of a firmer turf,” Ramsey said. “He ran a really big race for us at Churchill three back in the two-other-than and then came back with a really, really good effort in the Sycamore. That was a very tough field that day. He’s a really nice horse. The mile and an eighth should fit him just fine. Training well, really no complaints. I expect a big effort from him.”

Before his move back to the grass, Red Run won the 2022 Texas Turf Mile at Sam Houston and was third in a third-level optional claiming allowance at Ellis Park among six prior turf starts. Ramsey said the immediate future remains on grass.

“He’d run well over the turf before we claimed him. The day we claimed him he ran well on the dirt,” Ramsey said. “We tried stretching him out on the dirt. He ran well for us in the Brooklyn and at Churchill going a mile and a half but had kind of a lackluster effort in the Suburban. [We] tried him again and caught the mud at Saratoga and decided to put him back on the turf. His pedigree says he’ll go either way, but he ran well for us on the turf at Churchill first time for us so we’re going to stick to it for the time being.”

Another two-time Pegasus Turf-winning trainer with a pair of Fort Lauderdale starters is Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, who captured back-to-back editions with Colonel Liam in 2021-22 and has won the Fort Lauderdale with Pegasus Turf runner-up Largent in 2020, Mshawish in 2015 and Silver Medallion in 2012.

Grand Sonata wins the Kitten’s Joy (G3) Feb. 5, 2022, at Gulfstream Park (Coglianese)

Whisper Hill Farm’s 4-year-old homebred Grand Sonata, most recently fourth in the River City, has won two of three starts on the grass at Gulfstream – the one-mile Dania Beach and 1 1/16-mile Kitten’s Joy (G3) in succession in 2022. He placed in five other stakes that year including the Transylvania (G3), Dueling Grands Derby (G3) and Hill Prince (G2).

Repole Stable’s Jerry the Nipper is a six-time stakes-placed 6-year-old gelding, all against fellow New York-breds, most recently overcoming a late stumble to be fifth by two lengths in the one-mile Artie Schiller Nov. 12 at Aqueduct. By Liam’s Map – who also sired Colonel Liam – Jerry the Nipper is making his graded debut having run second in the Oct. 6 Ashley T. Cole at the Fort Lauderdale distance.

Trainer Chad Brown, who won the inaugural Pegasus Turf with eventual 2019 Horse of the Year Bricks and Mortar, also entered two horses in Running Bee and Stone Age. Calumet Farm’s Running Bee has put together two straight front-running wins though more than a year apart, returning from 13 months away with a 3 ¾-length optional claiming allowance triumph Nov. 17 at Aqueduct.

Westerberg, Peter Brant, Mrs. John Magnier, Derrick Smith and Michael Tabor’s Stone Age is a Group 3 winner in England that has made five previous North American starts, all in Grade 1 stakes, finishing third in the Belmont Derby and second in the Breeders’ Cup Turf in 2022. In his two latest efforts, the 4-year-old Galileo colt was fifth in the Sword Dancer at Saratoga and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Aqueduct, both going 1 ½ miles, the latter Oct. 7.

Supplemented to the Fort Lauderdale was Harrell Ventures’ Main Event, winner of the 2022 Kent (G3) at Delaware Park. Earlier that winter, the 4-year-old son of champion Bernardini broke his maiden, ran second in the Palm Beach and won the Cutler Bay on the Gulfstream turf. The pace-loving Main Event snapped a four-race losing streak with a determined head victory in a 1 1/16-mile optional claiming allowance Nov. 3 at Aqueduct.

Stakes winner Fort Washington, third in Gulfstream’s Canadian Turf (G3) March 4 for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey; Kingmax, who had his two-race win streak ended when fifth in the July 29 Seagram’s Cup (G2) on Woodbine’s all-weather surface; and Marwad, second in the March 4 Mac Diarmida (G2) at Gulfstream, complete the field.

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