March 20, 2019

Sibling rivalry stokes up in McKnight with Bullards Alley, Nessy

Canadian International (G1) hero Bullards Alley will face his younger brother Nessy in the W.L. McKnight (G3) (WEG/Michael Burns Photography)

Chock full of stakes and maiden races for three-year-olds, the Pegasus World Cup Day undercard could help generate record pari-mutuel handle for a non-Breeders’ Cup card at Gulfstream Park on Saturday.

The pre-World Cup highlights include several fixtures that originated across town at the former Calder (now Gulfstream Park West), the $200,000 W.L. McKnight H. (G3) and the $200,000 La Prevoyante H. (G3) for fillies and mares, both at 1 1/2 miles on the turf.

The McKnight features a unique showdown between the full brothers Bullards Alley and Nessy. The former is the more accomplished of the two, with his signature win coming in October when he romped by more than 10 lengths in the Canadian International (G1) on soft ground. Less effective in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) next out, the six-year-old comes off a narrow loss in the $100,000 H. Allen Jerkens over two miles.

The dual stakes-placed Nessy, one year younger, finished second in the Sycamore (G3) at Keeneland in his most recent start, but was comfortably handled by Oscar Nominated two back in the Kentucky Turf Cup (G3). That rival was subsequently second in the Canadian International, but a sub-par eighth in the Red Smith (G3) at Aqueduct most recently.

The field also includes Durocher and Mr Cub, one-two finishers in the $75,000 Tropical Park Derby, and Jerkens third-place finisher Gold Shield.

The La Prevoyante will be run early in the card. The field of seven is led by Apple Betty, who closed out 2017 on a winning note with a strong score in the Dowager (G3) at Keeneland. Daring Duchess toppled several of these in the $75,000 Via Borghese last out, while Summersault is three-for-six over the Gulfstream lawn, including an upset of last year’s Orchid (G3).

The $125,000 South Beach, at about 7 1/2 furlongs on the turf for fillies and mares, immediately precedes the World Cup and marks the return to action of Grade 1 heroine Celestine. She captured a pair of stakes over this course last season, but was only fifth in her Just a Game (G1) title defense in June and ran third in the Noble Damsel (G3) in her only start of the year in September.

Trainer Christophe Clement also sends out Stormy Victoria, a strong third in the My Charmer (G3) over a mile last out. Several others in the field exit divisions of the December 30 Tropical Park Oaks, including the Canadian-based Ghostly Presence.

Multiple stakes winner Richard’s Boy, runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) to stablemate Stormy Liberal in November, is one of several leading candidates in the $175,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint at five furlongs. A survivor of the San Luis Rey Downs training center fire in December, the Peter Miller trainee was third as the favorite in the $85,000 Joe Hernandez at Santa Anita on New Year’s Day.

Rainbow Heir just missed winning this race a year ago, losing by a nose to Power Alert. The Jason Servis trainee figures tough to beat this time, and comes off a late-rallying victory in the $125,000 Aqueduct Turf Sprint Championship.

Pay Any Price has won eight of 10 over the Gulfstream lawn and is riding in on a three-race win streak. His latest triumph came in the $90,000 Turf Dash at Tampa Bay Downs, which he won by a half-length over Jaguar Poz.

The fillies and mares will get their turn at the same distance in the $175,000 Ladies Turf Sprint. Pretty Perfection, the 2017 winner, has won all three starts on the Gulfstream turf. Claiming Crown Distaff Dash vixen Blue Bahia, Code Warrior, Brandy’s Girl, Justa Lady, and Girl Knows Best also merit respect.