Gulfstream Park’s spring meet concludes on Saturday with the Summit of Speed program showcasing five stakes. The card also features mandatory payouts of the Rainbow 6, Super Hi 5 and Late Pick 5.
The seven-furlong $250,000 Princess Rooney Stakes (G2) is a “Win & You’re In” qualifier to the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) on November 3 at Churchill Downs, and attracted eight runners including last year’s 4 1/2-length winner CURLIN’S APPROVAL.
The dark bay daughter of Curlin captured the 2017 Princess Rooney for trainer Marty Wolfson, but since then co-owner and breeder Happy Alter has conditioned the five-year-old mare.
She followed her Gulfstream score two races later with a 4 3/4-length victory in the Barely Even Handicap before shipping to Del Mar for an all-fees paid berth to the Filly & Mare Sprint. Unfortunately, Curlin’s Approval stumbled at the start of the Breeders’ Cup contest and lost all chance, eventually finishing 13th.
“This time, if we get to the Breeders’ Cup, I hope she doesn’t stumble out of gate,” Alter said. “She’s coming into this race very similar to how she came up to the race last year when she won it. Whenever you’re in a graded stakes the competition has to be respected. The fact that she won the Princess Rooney last year in a dramatic way, it’s a nice feeling to try to do it again.”
Curlin’s Approval gets jockey Luis Saez back in the irons after Tyler Gaffalione piloted the mare to a three-length win in the Ana T. Stakes last out on June 3.
Among those lining up against the defending champion is MS LOCUST POINT, who was third last out in the Skipat Stakes at Pimlico on the Black-Eyed Susan undercard. Two races before that, the John Servis-trained daughter of Dialed In recorded a 4 1/2-length triumph in the Barbara Fritchie Stakes (G2) at Laurel Park under returning jockey Jorge Vargas Jr.
Also in with a chance on Saturday are RICH MOMMY, winner of the Sugar Swirl Stakes (G3) last December and runner-up to Curlin’s Approval most recently in the Ana T. Stakes; TREBLE, a close second last out in the Winning Colors Stakes (G3); recent Musical Romance Stakes heroine STORMY EMBRACE, who is 4-3-0-1 thus far this year; and stakes vixen MY MISS TAPIT, who is three-for-three at Gulfstream including a 6 3/4-length win to open her four-year-old campaign last out on April 14.
The Princess Rooney will be followed one race later by the $250,000 Smile Sprint Stakes (G3) sending eight colts and geldings three-quarters on the main track.
The star of that contest is X Y JET, who had a three-race win streak snapped most recently when just missing by a head to Mind Your Biscuits in the Dubai Golden Shaheen (UAE-G1) at Meydan on March 31. The six-year-old gelding also ran second by a neck in the 2016 edition of that contest.
Conditioned by Jorge Navarro, the gray son of Kantharos has been given plenty of time to recover from his trip abroad and gets regular rider Emisael Jaramillo in the irons here.
“I couldn’t ask for more, finishing second to Mind Your Biscuits, a top horse, a quality horse,” Navarro said. “For a horse like (X Y Jet) to show up and run like that, I can’t ask for more. Hopefully, we can see him one more time in Dubai.”
X Y Jet, who has undergone three knee surgeries in his career, headed to Dubai off three winning starts that followed a 13-month break.
“He’s beaten all the odds. He’s not supposed to be here. He’s supposed to be retired. I guess he doesn’t want to be retired,” Navarro said. “He wants to do it. He’s a happy horse right now.”
The conditioner indicated that a win on Saturday in the Smile Sprint would see X Y Jet have a light schedule in the run up to the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) at Churchill on November 2.
“Our plan is to go easy with him and find the right spots. We’re trying to get to the Breeders’ Cup with him,” said Navarro, mentioning the De Francis Dash (G3) at Laurel in October as a possible Breeders’ Cup prep.
Among those challenging X Y Jet on Saturday will be Classic Rock, Mr. Jordan and Reason to Soar.
CLASSIC ROCK’s only loss at Gulfstream from seven starts came last year on Summit of Speed Day in the Carry Back Stakes (G3). The Katherine Ritvo trainee will attempt to wipe away the memory of that tough beat with victory in the Smile Sprint under Luis Saez, who has successfully guided the Maclean’s Music colt this year in a gate-to-wire win in the May 6 Jeblar Stakes and a three-length score in the Gulfstream Park Sprint (G3) on March 3.
MR. JORDAN likes placing at Gulfstream, but has a hard time finding the winner’s circle. From 13 tries over the track, the Ed Plesa Jr.-trained six-year-old has gone 1-5-1. The lone win came last out on May 12 in the Big Drama Stakes and was the Kantharos gelding’s first score since taking the Millions Classic Preview by 11 lengths last November. Edgard Zayas has the return call.
Multiple stakes-placed REASON TO SOAR is a horse for the course, as evidenced by his four-for-four record at Gulfstream. The George Weaver pupil recently scored by a half-length at the track against allowance/optional claiming rivals to earn a 101 BRIS Speed rating.
A trio of stakes kick off the Summit of Speed program earlier on the card.
ALTER MOON tops a field of six sophomore fillies in the $75,000 Azalea Stakes going seven furlongs after romping by 14 lengths against allowance/optional claimers over the track on June 3. Trainer Jose Velez has tabbed jockey Edgard Zayas for the return call.
Ten sprinters, including two main-track only runners, were entered in the $75,000 Bob Umphrey Turf Sprint. Defending champion PAY ANY PRICE boasts a 10-2-0 mark from 14 starts over Gulfstream’s turf and has captured seven of his last 10 starts, including a 5 1/4-length wire job in the Crystal River Stakes most recently on June 3.
Co-owner Rich Averill is hoping the eight-year-old gelding can make the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) at Churchill on November 2.
“That is the goal, the Breeders’ Cup. After this race we’ll probably give him not a break, really, but we’ll just kind of ease him up a little bit and try to get maybe one or two races before the Breeders’ Cup,” Averill said. “We’re not going to run in any big prep race around the country or anything like that. We’re just going to stay local and then hopefully he gets voted in. I think he should.
“When he’s right, I think he’s one of the best sprinters in the world, not just the country. The world.”
Regular rider Edgard Zayas stays aboard Pay Any Price on Saturday.
Wrapping up the undercard action on the Summit of Speed program will be the $75,000 Carry Back Stakes sending seven runners seven furlongs on the main track.