January 20, 2018

Bullards Alley brings class edge to two-mile Jerkens at Gulfstream Park

Bullards Alley turned in by far the best effort of his career in the Canadian International

The $100,000 H. Allen Jerkens kicks off a quintet of turf stakes at Gulfstream Park on Saturday, and the two-mile test has lured a big name in Canadian International (G1) romper Bullards Alley.

A mainstay in long-distance turf events, the Tim Glyshaw veteran scored his first graded win in the 2016 Louisville H. (G3) at Churchill Downs before enduring a prolonged losing streak. Bullards Alley turned in some solid efforts in defeat, such as his placings in that fall’s Kentucky Turf Cup (G3) and Sycamore (G3) and his near-miss in last July’s Singspiel (G3). Still, he looked out of his depth going into the October 15 Canadian International back at Woodbine, only to deliver a monstrous upset at odds of 42-1. Although his 10 3/4-length margin, and gaudy 120 BRIS Speed rating, reflected his love of the soft going there, Bullards Alley returned with a creditable sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) on the firm surface at Del Mar.

The Jerkens shapes up as a considerably easier spot for Bullards Alley, who brings a nearly 33-point edge in BRIS Prime Power over his nearest rival. But it will indicate whether the five-year-old has gained a winning habit, or if he’ll revert to his more characteristic pattern of a longer interval between wins. In his only previous attempt at this trip, he was sixth in the Belmont Gold Cup Invitational (GH3).

Next in Prime Power is the Shug McGaughey-trained Gold Shield. The $1 million son of Medaglia d’Oro and Dream Supreme has yet to earn black-type, having finished fourth in the Danger’s Hour and the Louisville ‘Cap (one spot behind Bullards Alley) this spring. Gold Shield thereafter dropped back into allowance company, and he may have turned the corner in his 6 1/4-length rout at Aqueduct last time out. The distance is a terra incognita for the blueblood.

Infinite Wisdom earned his signature win in his longest race so far, the 1 5/8-mile John’s Call at Saratoga, and the Brian Lynch trainee may enjoy the added ground on offer. Subsequently second as the 122-pound highweight in the Laurel Turf Cup, the Smart Strike gelding threw in a rare clunker in the Sycamore in his latest October 19.

Mike Maker sends out nicely bred Run Time, on the upswing after an allowance victory on this course.   The Gio Ponti colt is out of a Victory Gallop half-sister to Flower Alley (sire of Bullards Alley) and Japanese Grade 1 heroes Spielberg and Tosen Ra.

Argentine import Infobedad, most recently runner-up in the Marathon (G2) on Breeders’ Cup Friday, ships in for Hall of Famer Neil Drysdale. Although generally more effective on dirt, his on-the-pace style could serve him well here. Ecuadoran celebrity El Kurdo switches to turf following his second in the Clasico del Caribe Invitational Cup at Gulfstream, while English Illusion hopes to improve on his eighth in the 2016 Jerkens, and Honovi, a maternal relative of Perfect Drift, steps up in class for Brendan Walsh.

The Tropical Park Oaks was so popular at the entry box that the 1 1/16-mile affair was split into two divisions, worth $75,000 apiece.

The first division marks the turf debut of Miss Sky Warrior, who changes surfaces in hopes of recapturing her spark. After winning five straight on the dirt, culminating in her 13-length Gazelle (G2), she’s lost the plot when well beaten in the Kentucky Oaks (G1), Turnback the Alarm (G3), and Comely (G3). The Kelly Breen filly will be tested by a dozen rivals including Chad Brown’s multiple French stakes-placed Dream Awhile and Graham Motion’s import Westit; Unzip Me winner Storm the Hill, sold for $275,000 following her third in the Autumn Miss (G3) and now with Eddie Kenneally; Momentiempo, a Medaglia d’Oro half to Time and Motion who just broke her maiden at Aqueduct for Jimmy Toner; Lynch’s Irish recruit Ellery Lane, coming off a third in the Cellars Shiraz; fellow stakes-placed Bernadiva and Rose Tree; recent allowance winners Charged and Bigkat and Camille; New York-bred Overnegotiate representing the Repole/Todd Pletcher team; and well-bred Jaunt and Bride Street aiming to improve.

The second Tropical Park Oaks division likewise boasts a field of 13. Brown fields another strong contender in Commonwealth Oaks (G3) runner-up Taperge, who bested the consistent graded performer I’m Betty G at Laurel that day. (I’m Betty G is cross-entered to Saturday’s Pago Hop at Fair Grounds.) Blueblood Team of Teams, stakes-placed in France at two and in Aqueduct’s Memories of Silver, is rounding back into her best form and boasts a win over the course last winter. Multiple Woodbine stakes victress Ghostly Presence; Cellars Shiraz runner-up Spanish Harlem; last-out allowance winners Speighgal and English Affair; Ruling Angel winner Sister Nation, exiting a third in the Bessarabian (G2); Super Marina, winner of the off-the-turf Wild Applause three back; My Sistersledge, who prevailed by a nose in the October 21 Maryland Million Ladies; multiple Florida stakes scorer Lirica in her turf debut; Pletcher’s Flying Harmony; and Godolphin’s Lido, a daughter of Street Cry and Cocoa Beach, add to the intrigue.

Older fillies and mares will tackle 1 3/16 grassy miles in the $75,000 Via Borghese, and Beauly rates as the form choice in light of her close fourth in the Flower Bowl (G1). Martini Glass sports runner-up efforts in the Delaware H. (G1) and Spinster (G1) on the main track and took the Claiming Crown Tiara over this course. Brown stablemates Galileo’s Song and Texting, respectively second and third in the Long Island (G3), get a rematch in this spot. Also exiting the Long Island is sixth-placer Playful Sound. Eligible to take a step forward in her second stateside appearance for Christophe Clement, the Newsells Park homebred was stakes-placed this summer at York and previously beat males in a Newmarket handicap. Glen Hill Farm’s homebred Promotional, an unlucky fourth in this race last year, was a closing second in the Dowager (G3) when last seen. Multiple Grade 3 heroine Flipcup was a hard-charging third here a year ago, and Flaming Page winner Involuntary brings a trio of graded placings from Woodbine.

The $75,000 Tropical Park Derby concludes the program, its overflow field of 15 presaging a contentious 1 1/16 miles. Profiteer could be on the verge of a breakout for McGaughey. By War Front and out of multiple Grade 3 star Hit It Rich, the Saratoga allowance winner was a rallying third in the Commonwealth Derby (G3). Unexpectedly forward tactics backfired on him in the Twilight Derby (G2), but switching back to Hall of Famer John Velazquez implies a more congenial trip. Ontario Derby (G3) winner and Queen’s Plate runner-up Tiz a Slam aims to bounce back from a seventh in the Commonwealth Turf (G3) while renewing rivalry with Commonwealth Turf third Mr Cub, fourth Gorgeous Kitten, and sixth My Bariley (the Hawthorne Derby victor). Others to note are the trifecta from the Gio Ponti at Aqueduct – Small Bear, Funtastic (Gun Runner’s relative), and Secretary at War; Durocher, third versus elders in the Claiming Crown Emerald; Maryland Million Turf near-misser Somekindofmagician; and Mark Casse’s highly regarded Tapit colt, Dance Strike.

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