The highlights of Saturday’s marathon card at Gulfstream Park will be held on dirt, but the expansive turf course will host most of the stakes action, including the $200,000 Mac Diarmida (G2) for older horses over 1 3/8 miles.
The stellar field includes Sadler’s Joy, winner of last season’s Sword Dancer (G1) at Saratoga and the Pan American (G2) at Gulfstream. The Tom Albertrani charge rallied for fourth in his final two starts of 2017, the Turf Classic (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1), after falling well off the early pace.
“The horse is doing well. It looks like he’s ready to make his first start this year. He’s been training really well and he’s ready to go,” Albertrani said. “He actually runs well off the layoff. He showed that last year (finishing second by a head in the W.L. McKnight [G3]), so I would expect to see him come back as strong as he did last year when he made his first start back.”
Making a return from an even longer spell is Patterson Cross, who missed winning both the Mac Diarmida and Pan American last season in photo finishes. However, the Bill Mott trainee has not raced since the latter race last April 1.
Having had the benefit of a more recent run is Oscar Nominated, who held off a late surge from Nessy to take the January 27 McKnight by a half-length. Gold Shield finished less than a length behind in fourth, while Markitoff also returns from his fifth-place effort in that 12-furlong test.
One Go All Go missed by a head in the Fort Lauderdale (G2) in January and last month ran fourth to wire-to-wire winner Heart to Heart in the Gulfstream Park Turf (G1). Grade 3 victor Some in Tieme was a solid second to Bigger Picture in the John B. Connally Turf Cup at Sam Houston last time, while Run Time captured the $100,000 H. Allen Jerkens over two miles when last seen in December. Dual graded-placed Muqtaser and the Chad Brown-trained Bernay add depth to the field.
Older milers will also get a crack at stakes glory Saturday in the $150,000 Canadian Turf (G3). Grade 1-placed Highland Sky, gelded since his last start, faces a field that includes Tropical Turf (G3) upsetter Shakhimat; Galleon Mist, who’s won four of his past five starts in stakes company; and the sprint specialist Hogy.
Holy Helena, the 2017 Queen’s Plate-winning filly, will face six rivals in the $150,000 The Very One over 1 3/16 miles. The Stronach Stables homebred made a winning debut on the grass in early February, prevailing by a neck in a one-mile allowance.
Multiple stakes winner Daring Duchess, run down late in the 1 1/2-mile La Prevoyante (G3) last time, figures to be prominent throughout. Summersault, the 2017 Orchid (G3) winner, can improve off her fourth in the La Prevoyante, while multiple stakes-placed Westit seeks her first U.S. win since joining the Graham Motion barn.
The $100,000 Palm Beach, for three-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles, features a showdown between multiple stakes winners Speed Franco and Therapist. Speed Franco has officially won two of four starts: a six-length romp in the $75,000 Pulpit and a narrower score in the Dania Beach (G3) last time, both at Gulfstream. The New York-bred Therapist stepped up from a career-opening maiden win against state-bred company to take the $100,000 Laurel Futurity and later the $100,000 Awad at Belmont Park for trainer Christophe Clement.
Others to look out for are Maraud, an allowance winner who finished third to Speed Franco in the Pulpit, and debut winner Hawkish from the barn of Jimmy Toner.
Thewayiam, heroine of the $100,000 Ginger Brew and Sweetest Chant (G3) earlier in the meet, aims to make it three in a row in the $100,000 Herecomesthebride for three-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles. Her strongest challenge might come from Amertume, a first-out winner by Tapit from the barn of Todd Pletcher.
Grade 1 veteran Celestine will be a strong favorite to defend her title in the $100,000 Sand Springs for fillies and mares at one mile. The Clement trainee possesses a strong 9-5-3-1 record over the Gulfstream turf, and was most recently second in the $125,000 South Beach on January 27.