HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Grade 1 winner Halladay and multiple stakes-winning stablemate Largent will test their affinity for the racetrack with designs on the richest prize of the winter turf season next month in Saturday’s $200,000 Fort Lauderdale (G2) at Gulfstream Park.
The 64th running of the 1 1/8-mile Fort Lauderdale for 3-year-olds and up on the grass is the headliner on an 11-race program featuring five stakes, four graded, worth $575,000 in purses. First race post time is 12:05 p.m.
Also on the card are the $100,000 Harlan’s Holiday (G3) for 3-year-olds and up, hometown prep for the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) Jan. 23; and $100,000 Rampart (G3) at one mile, $100,000 Sugar Swirl (G3) going six furlongs and $75,000 My Rampart at 1 1/16 miles on turf, all for fillies and mares 3 and older.
Since the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1) was inaugurated in 2019, the Fort Lauderdale was moved from early January to mid-December to serve as the local stepping-stone to the Pegasus Day event. Eight of the 10 horses in Saturday’s field are stakes winners, six of them in graded company.
“This is going to be a tough race. This is a prep with some real teeth to it,” said Todd Pletcher, a two-time Fort Lauderdale winner who trains both Halladay and Largent. “I think if either one of them were able to perform well in here it would certainly tell us that they belong in the Pegasus.”
Harrell Ventures’ Halladay is undefeated in three races at Gulfstream, winning the 2019 Tropical Park Derby at last winter’s Championship Meet and both an April 4 optional claiming allowance and the 1 1/16-mile Sunshine Forever May 9 during the spring-summer stand. The 4-year-old War Front colt has never raced beyond 1 1/16 miles in his 15-race career.
“We’re interested in trying to stretch him out. We know that he’s fond of the Gulfstream course so we felt like this was sort of a good opportunity to see how he would handle a little more distance,” Pletcher said. “If this were to go really well it would put the Pegasus Turf in play, so that’s what we’re trying to find out.”
Fourth behind Fort Lauderdale rival Somelikeithotbrown in the Bernard Baruch (G2) in July, Halladay rebounded to win the one-mile Fourstardave (G1) Aug. 22, also at Saratoga. The front-running Halladay was sixth after setting the pace in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) last out Nov. 7 at Keeneland.
“He ran well. We unfortunately had to miss a prep race for it and the ground might have been a touch softer than he really likes it,” Pletcher said. “The way he finished and galloped out that day in the Fourstardave was encouraging. We’re interested to see how he does with the added distance.”
Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Twin Creeks Racing Stables’ Largent owns three wins and a second in four lifetime tries at Gulfstream, breaking his maiden last March and winning a pair of allowances during the 2019-2020 Championship Meet.
The 4-year-old Into Mischief gelding became a stakes winner in the Edward P. Evans in July at Colonial Downs, and returns off a neck triumph in the 1 1/16-mile Bert Allen Oct. 9 at Laurel Park, both coming against fellow Virginia-breds.
Like Halladay, Largent has never raced beyond 1 1/16 miles. He will carry 120 pounds including jockey Paco Lopez from Post 6 while Luis Saez has the assignment on Halladay from outside Post 10 at co-topweight of 125 pounds.
“He’s super consistent, always shows up and runs well. He, too, has always liked Gulfstream. He’s definitely one that is capable on the day,” Pletcher said of Largent. “I think as he’s matured he’s settled a little better, as has Halladay, I think that gives them both the chance of handling the added distance.”
A former Pletcher trainee, Calumet Farm’s Channel Cat is also part of the Fort Lauderdale mix with designs on the Pegasus. Channel Cat ran third by less than a length, beaten a neck for second, in last year’s race, then finished 10th in the Pegasus Turf and fourth in the Pan American (G2) before going to the sidelines.
The 5-year-old son of turf champion English Channel is now under the care of Calumet’s private trainer Jack Sisterson and set to make his first start since March 28. Winner of the 2019 Bowling Green (G2), Channel Cat is less than $52,000 shy of the $1 million mark in lifetime earnings.
“I think the pressure’s on to sort of try and follow in Todd’s footsteps, but we’ll give it a shot,” Sisterson said. “We’ll see how he performs and where we go after that. If he was to run well, we’ll bring him back for the Pegasus.”
Corey Lanerie rides Channel Cat from Post 5 at 120 pounds.
Somelikeithotbrown and Tide of the Sea will represent trainer Mike Maker, upset winner of the 2020 Pegasus Turf with Zulu Alpha and winner of the 2018 Fort Lauderdale with Shining Copper. Three Diamonds Farm’s Tide of the Sea has two seconds and back-to-back wins since being purchased for $80,000 out of Keeneland’s November 2019 Breeding Stock Sale.
Skychai Racing and David Koenig’s Somelikeithotbrown won the Bernard Baruch and Oct. 24 Mohawk against fellow New York-breds in front-running fashion. Though he shares a similar running style as Halladay, the 4-year-old Big Brown colt has experience at 1 1/8 miles with two wins, a second and a third in six tries.
Tyler Gaffalione has the call on Somelikeithotbrown from the rail. Tide of the Sea will be ridden by Joe Bravo from Post 7.
“We’re going to give both of them a shot,” Maker said. “It would be great to get back to the Pegasus.”
Gaining Ground Racing’s Factor This is a 12-time career winner of more than $1.2 million in purse earnings trained by Brad Cox, who has a string in South Florida for the first time this winter. Factor This won four straight races and three graded-stakes between Feb. 15 and Aug. 2, a period interrupted by a pause in racing amid the coronavirus pandemic, was a front-running winner of the Dinner Party (G2) Oct. 3 at Pimlico Race Course and finished eighth following a troubled trip in the Breeders’ Cup Mile.
Spooky Channel, the 2020 W.L. McKnight (G3) winner at Gulfstream; Phipps Stable’s Grade 3-placed homebred Breaking the Rules, two-for-three lifetime at Gulfstream including a win in the 2018 Tropical Park Derby; Juddmonte Farms French Group 3 winner Delaware, third by a neck in the Artie Schiller last out Nov. 14 at Aqueduct; and Allen Stable homebred Doswell, a winner of two straight for trainer Barclay Tagg round out the field.
Photo Credit: Lauren King/ Gulfstream Park Press Release