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Cor Cor, Little Distorted, I O Ireland spark New Year's hopes

Joan Scott couldn't predict that Cor Cor would become a stakes winner in only her second start, but she was well aware that she was training a very fast filly before the daughter of Smoke Glacken made her debut at Keeneland in October.

"She was a rocket out of the gate. When she got her gate card, she was always sharp out of the gate," said Scott, who'll saddle Cor Cor for Tuesday's Grade 3, $100,000 Old Hat at Gulfstream. "But you never know until they run. You know how it is, you have all these great ideas, but the proof is only after they make that first start."

Cor Cor's exceptional speed was very much in evidence on October 11, when she ran away from 11 three-year-old fillies over Keeneland's Polytrack to score by nearly three lengths.

"I was delighted with her, delighted and excited," said Scott, who trains the Florida-bred filly for Steve Ballou and Harriet Waldron.

Cor Cor came back two months later with an even more exciting front-running effort to win the $68,000 Sandpiper at Tampa Bay on December 1. She rocketed away from the starting gate to set torrid early fractions (:21 4/5, :44 2/5 and :56 3/5) and hung tough to register a half-length victory, in a stakes-record 1:10 for six furlongs.

"It showed me that she had some guts," Scott said. "I saw the fractions, I didn't know what was going to happen. I was really proud of her. It shows you a lot."

Cor Cor has turned in a pair of bullet breezes since her winning stakes debut, including a :47 2/5 four-furlong breeze that was the best of 40 recorded at the distance on December 23 at Tampa Bay.

"She's very kind; she's very pretty; and she's sweet. But she's quick about everything. You have to train her with relaxed training," Scott said. "But if she's ready to go, you just have to push the button. She's very kind to deal with."

Scott Spieth will have the return mount aboard Cor Cor, who is slated to break from the number 3 post position, two stalls outside of likely favorite Kauai Katie in the starting gate.

"I'm happy with the post," Scott said, "and we'll play it by ear.

"I think she fits. Any time you run in a graded stakes, you're going to go up against heavy hitters. They don't give stakes wins and placings away -- you have to earn them -- but she has done nothing wrong so far and is doing super, which is what I'm concerned about."

Little Distorted is making his three-year-old debut on Tuesday. Purchased following a most auspicious debut victory, Little Distorted is scheduled to make his first start for Silverton Hill LLC and trainer Darrin Miller in Tuesday's $100,000 Spectacular Bid.

The newly turned three-year-old has impressed his new trainer with his training since switching barns early last month.

"He's a very impressive horse with a good demeanor. He's very easy to work with. He's a willing, accommodating horse," Miller said.

Little Distorted posted eye-catching speed figures at Belmont Park on October 28 while upsetting 1-5 favorite Revolutionary, a well-connected colt who broke his maiden last week at Aqueduct by 8 1/2 lengths. Formerly trained by Michael Mareina for Kuhne Racing , Little Distorted drew off to score by more than two lengths after prompting as setting fast fractions in the six-furlong sprint.

"He's a big mover," said Miller, who saddled Dominican for a victory in the 2007 Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes and an 11th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby. "He's a talented horse who can turn it on and turn it off. He's a very athletic horse."

Javier Castellano has the mount for the Spectacular Bid, which attracted a field of six, including Merit Man, who was nosed out by Hightail in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint at Santa Anita on November 3.

While Miller hasn't set a schedule for Little Distorted, he expects the Kentucky-bred colt to participate in Gulfstream Park's program for three-year-olds.

Also running on New Year's Day is I O Ireland in the $75,000 Ginger Brew Stakes over Gulfstream's turf course. It shouldn't come as a surprise that I O Ireland has star potential. Being a daughter of prominent international stallion Giant's Causeway, Team Block's homebred three-year-old filly has a right to be a good one.

Yet, I O Ireland's impressive bloodlines are hardly restricted to her paternal side of the family. The Illinois-bred filly is out of multiple-stakes winner Ioya Two, whom trainer Chris Block campaigned during a career in which she earned more than $460,000. Ioya Two has become a stellar broodmare, as well, producing Ioya Bigtime, a multiple Grade 3 winner of nearly $500,000, and Amazing Results, a Grade 3 winner of nearly $375,000.

I O Ireland, who is set to make her stakes debut on Tuesday, debuted with a fourth-place finish at Arlington Park last August, before breaking her maiden against state-breds at Arlington Park a month later and capturing an entry-level allowance at Keeneland in October.

"She's a big filly and I think she's a work in progress, personally. She's run very green in her three starts, and I think there's a lot of potential with a pedigree like that," Block said. "For what she's accomplished in her short career so far, she's shown enough ability and talent that I think she has a future if we do right by her."

Block has realistic expectations for I O Ireland in the Ginger Brew, a 1 1/16-mile turf race that drew a field of 14.

"We'll go forward on Tuesday, which is the New Year for her. I'm looking for a solid performance something I can improve off of. We always like to win, but I'm the kind of guy, when you have a horse like this, I don't look at it as one race," Block said. "I'm looking for a step forward in the education process and maturity process on Tuesday."

I O Ireland has been training well over the Gulfstream turf for her three-year-old debut.

"Her first work was good on the turf. The second one was much better," Block said. "I think she's good enough and ready to take a step forward mentally, and the physical part of it, I hope will fall into place, where it gets her ready to go as we move into her next race and the races thereafter."

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