Munnings Set For Season Debut
Munnings set to make belated season debut at Gulfstream
When the rain fell and temperature dropped on January 9 for the Mr. Prospector S. (G3), trainer Todd Pletcher wasn't about to risk having his crack sprinter MUNNINGS (Speightstown) potentially lose for a fourth consecutive time in sloppy conditions. One month after scratching the colt, conditions are expected to be more ideal for Munnings' belated four-year-old debut in Saturday's $150,000 Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship (G2), a seven-furlong dash which shares a 10-race card with the $125,000 Hurricane Bertie S. (G3) for fillies and mares at 6 1/2 furlongs.
Victorious last summer in the Woody Stephens S. (G2) and Tom Fool H. (G2), the latter versus older horses, Munnings' aspirations for a divisional championship drowned in seas of slop late in the year when running third in the Haskell Invitational (G1), King's Bishop S. (G1) and Vosburgh S. (G1). With last year's divisional superstars either retired or awaiting warmer weather, Munnings can move to the head of the class with a strong performance here. Javier Castellano will fill in on Munnings for John Velazquez, who will ride the Pletcher-trained Rule (Roman Ruler) in Saturday's Sam F. Davis S. (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs.
Prominent owner Edmund Gann, who passed away late last week after a bout with cancer, will have his colors sported by the uncoupled MOTOVATO (Proud Citizen) and YOU AND I FOREVER (A.P. Indy). Motovato turned in a thrilling stretch run from last to take the December 26 Kenny Noe Jr. H. (G3) at Calder, but has been unsuccessful in four prior trips over Gulfstream's main track with just a pair of third-place finishes to his credit. You and I Forever, still looking for his first stakes win, has fared a little better over the course when second to subsequent Donn H. (G1) winner Quality Road (Elusive Quality) in the January 3 Hal's Hope S. (G3). CONGRESSIONAL PAGE (Orientate), a neck back of You and I Forever in the Hal's Hope, also returns in this spot.
SOLAR FLARE (Arg) (Salt Lake), whose recent best has been at or around a mile, shortens up for his seasonal debut under Ramon Dominguez, who guided the six-year-old to victory in the Half High S. at Aqueduct in November. The one-mile Half High marked the South American's debut for trainer Tony Dutrow, who took over the handling of the Fox Hill Farms colorbearer from the retiring Larry Jones.
Others of note in the Sprint Championship are Mr. Prospector third PRESTO CHANGE O (Grand Slam), who was also entered in Thursday's featured allowance/optional claimer; PRINCE JOSHUA (First Tour), who placed in the Kenny Noe Jr. and Jack Dudley Sprint H. in his last two; and PEACE CHANT (War Chant), twice unplaced at the Grade 1 level following a win in the Phoenix Gold Cup a year ago. Allowance types BIKER BOY (Came Home) and INKADO (Yankee Gentleman) round out the field.
The protagonists from the three-way photo finish in the January 9 Sugar Swirl S. (G3) are the leading contenders in the Hurricane Bertie. PRETTY PROLIFIC (Lion Heart), WARBLING (Unbridled's Song) and TAR HEEL MOM (Flatter) were separated by a head and a nose, respectively, in that six-furlong heat, and of the three Warbling arguably has the most upside as the Sugar Swirl marked just her third start in a career that only began October 30.
Those looking to go against the top three might find merit in KAYS AND JAYS (Macho Uno), who invades from California for trainer Mike Mitchell. Winner of the Cascapedia S. at Santa Anita on Breeders' Cup weekend, the four-year-old dueled and tired slightly to fifth in the La Brea S. (G1) on December 26. In her last jaunt to Florida, the Zayat Stables representative was a sharp second, beaten less than a length, in the Azalea S. (G3) at Calder in July.
On the Florida worktab
Multiple Grade 2 winner D' FUNNYBONE (D'wildcat), the trailer in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) last out, zipped six furlongs in 1:12 1/5 over the fast main track at Gulfstream Park on Wednesday in advance of the February 20 Hutcheson S. (G2).
Mrs. Revere S. (G2) queen MARY'S FOLLIES (More Than Ready) logged five furlongs in 1:04 3/5.
KRISTI WITH A K (Petionville), a head second in the Athenia S. (G3) in October, sped four panels in :47 4/5.
Demoiselle S. (G2) runner-up PROTESTING (A.P. Indy), fourth versus allowance foes in her seasonal bow, clocked three furlongs in :35 4/5.
Grade 2 victor COURAGEOUS CAT (Storm Cat), runner-up in the Breeders' Cup Mile (G1) last out, traveled a half-mile in :48 over the fast dirt at Payson Park.
EYE OF TAURUS (Aldebaran), a Valley View S. (G3) division winner in October, completed three furlongs in :38 4/5 over the fast dirt at Palm Meadows.
CELTIC PRINCESS (Brz) (Public Purse), Brazilian Horse of the Year in 2008, went five-eighths in 1:03 1/5 over the firm turf. Second in the My Charmer S. at Turfway two back, she was fifth as the favorite in an allowance on January 28.
Multiple stakes winner and Grade 2-placed YOU LUCKIE MANN (Exchange Rate), a distant fifth in the Gallant Bob H. when last seen, covered four furlongs in :49 4/5 over the fast main track at Calder.
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