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Mac Diarmida, Sabin highlight Gulfstream card

Al Khali enters 2011 as one of the top-ranked turf horses on the East Coast (Bill Roberts/Horsephotos.com)

Gulfstream Park's first graded long-distance turf race of the season, Saturday's $150,000 Mac Diarmida S. (G2) over 1 3/8 miles, attracted a field of 13 when entries were drawn at mid-week. Potential favorite AL KHALI (Medaglia d'Oro), winner of the Bowling Green H. (G2) and a close fourth in the Canadian International (Can-G1) last fall, drew post 12 for his seasonal debut.

Trained by Bill Mott, Al Khali was last seen trailing a field of seven in the Breeders' Cup Turf (G1) at Churchill Downs. Despite entering the 1 1/2-mile event in reasonable form and sent away at 4-1, the ridgling never responded over a course deemed by most observers as being much softer than the official designation of firm. Thus, Al Kahli's performance was not inconsistent with some of his past efforts over courses labeled yielding or soft.

Among his dozen rivals are the four-year-old PRINCE WILL I AM (Victory Gallop), who came on late last season to win the Jamaica H. (G1) over three-year-olds on grass and the W.L. McKnight H. (G2), a 1 1/2-mile contest moved from turf to dirt due to rain. Squeezed between those two trips to the winner's circle was a controversial run in the Breeders' Cup Marathon (G3), where Prince Will I Am caused a chain reaction en route to a second-place finish. In addition to being disqualified to 10th, Prince Will I Am's rider Javier Castellano was involved in a post-race altercation with jockey Calvin Borel due to the in-race bumping.

Elevated to second in the Marathon was GABRIEL'S HILL (A.P. Indy), but the seven-year-old has only enjoyed modest success on turf and was a tiring sixth in the Mac Diarmida a year ago. Expected to be more of a factor are the nine-year-old MUSKETIER (Ger) (Acatenango), who managed to race only twice last season. However, both starts at Keeneland were highly productive. The first was a 1 3/4-length triumph in the Elkhorn S. (G2) in April, followed by a third in the Sycamore S. (G3) during the Lexington, Kentucky, course's fall meet in October.

Former Canadian grass champion RAHY'S ATTORNEY (Crown Attorney) enters off top-two finishes in his last four starts. Most recently, the gelding just missed by a neck in the Tropical Turf H. (G3) at Calder in early December. When last seen on the Gulfstream turf in March, Rahy's Attorney was beaten a head as the favorite in the Appleton S. (G3).

SIMMARD (Dixieland Band), third by a neck in the Bowling Green, and CITRUS KID (Lemon Drop Kid), the Jamaica runner-up, have been competitive at times with the main rivals. The latter has the benefit of a race this season when leading a second-level allowance field gate-to-wire over nine furlongs on January 15. Others of note are Louisville H. (G3) hero FREE FIGHTER (Out of Place) and ORDINATION (Fantastic Light), who won a 1 1/2-mile allowance test over the Gulfstream lawn a year ago.

Multiple Grade 2 vixen AMEN HALLELUJAH (Montbrook), a dull fifth as the 6-5 choice in the January 29 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint following a long layoff, seeks to rebound in the $100,000 Sabin S. (G3) at one mile. The Rick Dutrow trainee was out of action nearly eight months following her close second in the Acorn S. (G1) in June, and might prove more formidable stretching out with a recent race under her belt.

The speedy CATCH A THIEF (Flatter) and Grade 2 veteran SASSY IMAGE (Broken Vow) finished one-two in a course-and-distance allowance on January 14 and might prove dangerous right back. HYPERLINK (Toccet) is undefeated in two starts since moving to the Kenny McPeek barn, notching the Manatee S. at Tampa Bay Downs last time, while Grade 2 heroine AWESOME MARIA (Maria's Mon) will tackle older fillies for the first time after running second in the Gazelle S. (G1) in her latest outing.

The Florida-breds AMAZING (Greatness), JOANIE'S CATCH (First Tour) and MUSICAL ROMANCE (Concorde's Tune) are capable of minor awards with their best form.


 


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