Report From Florida
THE REPORT FROM FLORIDA...
Changing Skies back to her best in La Prevoyante
Swettenham Stud's homebred CHANGING SKIES (Ire) (Sadler's Wells), a subpar fourth in the November 13 Long Island H. (G3) last time out, rebounded with a vengeance in Sunday's $100,000 La Prevoyante H. (G3) at Calder. Charging past Casablanca Smile (Chi) (Ocean Terrace) in the stretch, the Bill Mott mare drew off impressively by 3 3/4 lengths while finishing 1 1/2 miles on the good turf course in 2:27 4/5.
Prior to her Long Island reverse, Changing Skies had never finished worse than second from seven U.S. starts, and bettors kept faith by dispatching her as the 6-5 favorite on Sunday. The well-bred six-year-old proved a worthy banker, returning $4.40, $2.80 and $2.20 and keying the $10.40 exacta, $42.40 trifecta and $187.60 superfecta (11-7-3-2).
'I think her last race left Bill (Mott) kind of scratching his head and couldn't give her an excuse,' assistant trainer Ken McCarthy said, 'but they got her down to Payson Park after that, and obviously ran like she can today.'
The early pace was quick enough, as Speak Easy Gal (West Acre) had to work to stride clear of Becky's Exchange (Exchange Rate) after the opening quarter in :23 2/5. Speak Easy Gal stayed a length ahead through fractions of :47 4/5, 1:12 4/5 and 1:37 4/5, but she was already under assault on the far turn. The stalking Casablanca Smile, who had been in striking range throughout, overtook the longtime leader and clocked 2:03 for the 1 1/4-mile split.
Meanwhile, Changing Skies was making eye-catching progress beneath Kent Desormeaux. Reserved in eighth for the initial mile, she rapidly advanced into third on the final turn and accosted Casablanca Smile at the head of the lane. Although the co-highweights at 121 pounds, and the top two wagering interests, now appeared on the verge of fighting it out to the finish, the duel was short-lived. Changing Skies had too much firepower for Casablanca Smile and bounded away with authority.
'They left there running the first part of it and went the early fractions kind of quick,' Desormeaux said. 'I didn't want to get caught up in that, so I let my mare settle back and she responded exactly the way I needed her to. She put us in the race when I asked her, and then I just took a clear outside path, and she showed them who was the best in the stretch.'
Casablanca Smile, the 8-5 second choice, furnished $2.80 and $2.40. Tarrip (Green Desert) kept on another 1 1/4 lengths adrift in third, and the 10-1 chance paid $4 for her efforts. The 11-1 Liberally (Ire) (Statue of Liberty) capped the superfecta after crossing the wire a further 4 1/4 lengths away in fourth. Speak Easy Gal tired to fifth, followed by Dancing Rage (Sligo Bay [Ire]), Becky's Exchange, Bodua (North Light [Ire]), The Niagara Queen (Langfuhr) and Academicienne (Royal Academy). Sweet and Flawless (Unbridled's Song) was scratched.
Changing Skies' third stakes victory advanced her line to 18-5-6-3 and boosted her earnings to $435,993. First trained in England by Brian Meehan, the bay missed by a head in the 2008 Prix de Psyche (Fr-G3) and placed third in that season's Cheshire Oaks and Prix Charles Laffitte. Changing Skies raced only once for Meehan in 2009, fading to fourth in the Middleton S. (Eng-G3), and joined Mott later that summer. After capturing an allowance at Belmont Park in her U.S. debut, she finished second in a Keeneland allowance to wrap up her 2009 campaign.
Successful in The Very One S. (G3) in her 2010 bow, Changing Skies finished second to Lady Shakespeare (Theatrical [Ire]) in both the Bewitch S. (G3) and New York S. (G2). She earned her second stakes score in the Waya S. at Saratoga, defeating Casablanca Smile by 2 1/4 lengths, and suffered a last-stride loss in the Flower Bowl Invitational (G1). Changing Skies was accordingly bet down to 3-5 favoritism in the Long Island, only to come up uncharacteristically empty in the drive, but she left that disappointment well behind here.
The Irish-bred mare is the sixth stakes winner out of the outstanding producer Magnificient Style (Silver Hawk), whose biggest career victory came in the 1996 Musidora S. (Eng-G3). Changing Skies is a full sister to English juvenile co-highweight filly Playful Act (Ire) and Group 2-winning stayer Percussionist. Playful Act scored in the 2004 Fillies Mile (Eng-G1) and May Hill S. (Eng-G2), added the 2005 Lancashire Oaks (Eng-G2) to her resume, and also finished runner-up in the Irish Oaks (Ire-G1). In 2007, Playful Act sold for $10.5 million at Keeneland November, setting a world record auction price for a broodmare, and she is already the dam of the English stakes-placed Giants Play (Giant's Causeway).
Magnificient Style's other group winner is Echoes in Eternity (Ire) (Spinning World). Queen of the 2003 Sun Chariot S. (Eng-G2) and 2004 Park Hill S. (Eng-G2), Echoes in Eternity is herself the dam of current English stakes winner and Cumberland Lodge S. (Eng-G3) near-misser Whispering Gallery (Daylami [Ire]). Magnificient Style is also responsible for English stakes scorer and Group 2-placed Petara Bay (Peintre Celebre) and multiple stakes winner and Grade 3-placed Stylelistick (Storm Cat).
Magnificient Style is herself a half-sister to Charles H. Strub S. (G1) winner and sire Siberian Summer (Siberian Express). This is the family of Cavalryman (Halling), the 2009 Grand Prix de Paris (Fr-G1) hero who was third in that year's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Fr-G1); Grade 1 victor Silver Ending (Silver Hawk); German highweight older stayer Double Honour (Highest Honour); and a few New Zealand champions, including St Reims (Zabeel) and Champagne (Zabeel).
Gulfstream 2011 to offer richer stakes, lower takeouts
Gulfstream will help celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Florida Derby (G1) with the most lucrative and innovative stakes schedule in its rich history when racing resumes at the Hallandale Beach, Florida, course on Wednesday.
Gulfstream will play host to 45 stakes races -- 33 of them graded -- for purses of more than $8 million. Gulfstream's commitment to the industry and its fans is evident by the 2011 schedule, which features purse increases to a number of major stakes including the Florida Derby, enriched from $750,000 to $1 million.
In all, Gulfstream has increased the purses of its major races for three-year-olds -- the January 30 Holy Bull S. (G3), February 26 Fountain of Youth S. (G2) and April 3 Florida Derby -- a total of $650,000. It has also increased the purses of its major races for three-year-old fillies -- the January 30 Forward Gal S. (G2), February 26 Davona Dale S. (G2) and April 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) -- a total of $250,000. All six races are also part of the Preakness 5.5 and Black-Eyed Susan 2.2, a unique and historic bonus program that could award owners and trainers nearly $8 million in bonus money.
'I think with the bonus incentives and the purse increases, Gulfstream's three-year-old races are perfectly positioned and offer horsemen the most lucrative stakes programs heading into the spring classics,' said Timothy Ritvo, Vice President, East Coast Racing for MI Developments.
'We're going to have a strong meet with the sport's best outfits,' Racing Secretary Dan Bork said. 'We're focused on building our three-year-old program, and we've certainly boosted it this year nearly an additional $1 million and the bonus programs. I'm looking forward to continue growing the meet.'
One slight modification this season will be both the Holy Bull and Florida Derby being run on Sunday rather than Saturday.
'It's a chance to try something new,' Ritvo said. 'We want to promote these great races as part of a big weekend of racing. The Florida Derby will be part of a weekend festival that will include six graded races worth more than $1.8 million.'
While the Florida Derby has produced 39 horses who have won 54 Triple Crown events, the Fountain of Youth and Holy Bull have also gained a reputation for producing quality classic runners. The Fountain of Youth has been contested by Kentucky Derby (G1) winners Thunder Gulch (1995), Spectacular Bid (1979), Kauai King (1966) and Tim Tam (1958) as well as Kentucky Derby runners-up Forty Niner (1988). The Holy Bull has served as a prep race for Kentucky Derby winners Barbaro (2006), Funny Cide (2003) and Go for Gin (1994) as well as Derby runner-up Closing Argument (2006).
For older horses, Gulfstream's $500,000 Donn H. (G1), a major prep for the Dubai World Cup (UAE-G1), will provide fans with one of two Grade 1 races on February 5. Along with the Donn, Gulfstream will also play host that day to the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Turf H. (G1).
The ninth edition of the popular Sunshine Millions will be contested January 29 at both Gulfstream and its sister track Santa Anita Park. This year, Gulfstream will play host to the $500,000 Classic, $300,000 Filly & Mare Turf, and $200,000 Filly & Mare Sprint.
Gulfstream's turf course will once again be the site of full fields and the country's top turf stars. On January 9, Gulfstream has carded two turf events -- the Marshua's River S. (G3) for fillies and mares and the Ft. Lauderdale S. (G3). The Palm Beach S. (G3), which served last year as a launching point for Grade 1 winner Paddy O'Prado (El Prado [Ire]), will be held March 12; the Orchid S. (G3), for fillies and mares across 1 1/2 miles, will be contested March 20, while it's counterpart for older males, the Pan American S. (G3), will be March 26.
The stakes action kicks off Wednesday with the $100,000 Old Hat S. (G3), a six-furlong dash for three-year-old fillies which attracted a field of six. IT'S ME MOM (Put It Back), who won the Presque Isle Downs Debutante by nearly seven lengths in late September, finished a distant runner-up in the December 26 Sandpiper S. at Tampa Bay Downs, but might have needed the race following a three-month layoff.
FINAL MESA (Sky Mesa), who captured the Polly Drummond S. and My Dear S. by a combined margin of 12 1/2 lengths over the summer, met her first reversal when shipped west for the August 6 Sorrento S. (G3) at Del Mar. She will attempt to rebound for trainer Wesley Ward following a five-month spell. Another once-beaten filly to watch for is QUANTUM MISS (Smoke Glacken), who humbled her Pennsylvania-bred peers with a 16-length romp in the Blue Mountain S. at Penn National last time.
Another serious contender is ROXY GAP (Indian Charlie), who is undefeated in three starts including the Shady Well S. at Woodbine. However, Eugene Melnyk's homebred will be trying dirt for the first time after scoring over the Polytack and turf courses in Toronto.
Gulfstream announced earlier some changes to its wagering menu and takeout rates. Among the wagers being offered are:
# A 50-cent Pick 5 with a record low 15 percent takeout
# Low takeout rates on Bet 3 and 50-cent Pick 4 wagers of only 20 percent
# An early and late 50-cent Pick 4
# A 10-cent Pick 6
# Rolling Daily Doubles, Superfectas and Bet 3s
'We're optimistic and excited about the new wagers we're introducing and the fact Gulfstream will be offering many of the lowest takeouts in the country,' said Steve Calabro, president and general manager of Gulfstream Park. 'We think the Pick 5, Pick 4s and 10-cent Pick 6 creates more opportunities for our fans.
'This is just part of our commitment to our customers. Those attending Gulfstream this year will also notice nearly a 50 percent increase in our self-service betting terminals.'
First post Gulfstream will be 12:55 p.m. (ET) each day. The early Pick 4 will begin with the second race while the late Pick 4 will be on the last four races. The Pick 5 will be on the day's last five races and the Pick 6 on the day's last six. The Pick 5, Pick 4 and Pick 6 wagers will be accepted only at self-service terminals.
The 10-cent Pick 6 will be awarded to one unique ticket. On days there are multiple winners, 60 percent of the pool will be shared equally while 40 percent goes back into the jackpot.
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