Track Reports

Gulfstream Park Notes: Undefeated Zulu Likely to Return in G2 Fountain of Youth

Zulu winning seven-furlong entry-level optional claiming allowance by 7 ¼ lengths Jan. 15 - Photo Credit: Lauren King, Gulfstream Park
Lauren King, Gulfstream Park

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier, Derrick Smith and Stonestreet Stables’ Zulu is being pointed to the $400,000 Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park Feb. 27.

Trained by Todd Pletcher, the son of Bernardini has launched his promising career with a pair of impressive victories at Gulfstream Park, winning his six-furlong debut by two lengths Dec. 5 and capturing a seven-furlong entry-level optional claiming allowance by 7 ¼ lengths Jan. 15.

Zulu is nominated for Saturday’s $350,000 Lambholm South Holy Bull (G2), but Pletcher determined that the Fountain of Youth, the final prep for the $1 million Florida Derby (G1) April 2, is a better fit for the late-developing Kentucky-bred. The 1 1/8-mile prep would be Zulu’s stakes debut and first trip around two turns.

“You would think a Bernardini out of a Summer Squall mare wouldn’t have a limit, pedigree-wise. The question now is: it’s going to be his first step up into a graded stake against more seasoned, more experienced company, I would assume,” Pletcher said. “We’ll see what happens in the Holy Bull. I like the spacing of it. He’s already had two races over the track. He seems to like it. You have to step up and see where you are at some point.”

The manner in which Zulu powered away from his rivals in his most recent start would suggest that distance won’t be an issue.

“It was what we were hoping for and expecting, especially from a favorable post position,” Pletcher said. “I thought stretching out would help as well. It was a powerful performance and he finished up well. It seemed like he did it authoritatively.”

Pletcher has saddled the winners of the past two editions of the Florida Derby with late-developing Constitution (2014) and Materiality (2015).

“I can’t say [Zulu] reminds me of the two Florida Derby winners. The horse that he reminds me of is Stay Thirsty,” said Pletcher of the 2011 Travers (G1) winner and Belmont Stakes (G1) runner-up. “Physically, they’re very similar types and they’re both by Bernardini.”

H. Allen Jerkens Stakes a Sentimental Spot for Simon
In a move reminiscent of his former boss and mentor, trainer Chuck Simon will wheel Garnet Stable’s Xaverian back in just two weeks in Saturday’s $100,000 H. Allen Jerkens Stakes.

It is the second year for the two-mile turf stakes and the first since the legendary Hall of Fame horseman passed away last March at the age of 85. Simon spent nearly four years working for Jerkens before going out on his own in 1999.

“This is the kind of move the Chief would make, take a horse that just finished off the board in an allowance race and throw him in a stake,” Simon said. “The horse is training good, he’s feeling good and acting good. He would always say, ‘When a horse is sharp and training good, run them,’ so we’re going to take advantage of that. It’d be nice to hit the board in the Chief’s race. It means a little bit more, obviously, because it’s Allen.”

Simon claimed Xaverian, a 5-year-old Sky Mesa gelding, for $35,000 out of a third-place finish last winter at Gulfstream. He was second by less than a length in his debut for Simon last March and is winless in 10 starts since a July 2014 allowance at Ellis Park.

Xaverian was third in a pair of fall starts at Gulfstream Park West and most recently was sixth, beaten three lengths, after a wide trip going 1 1/8 miles in an optional claiming allowance Jan. 9. He drew outside post nine in the Jerkens and will have the services of jockey Joel Rosario at 117 pounds, six fewer than topweight and program favorite Charming Kitten.

“Last time, unfortunately, he got hung eight or nine wide or he might have been able to win that race. He always struck me as a horse that has a lot of stamina. Sometimes he gets outrun, but it never seems like he gets tired,” Simon said. “Beyond the favorite, it’s pretty wide open. There’s some nice old hard-knocking horses in there, but we’re all question marks at two miles.

“He’s always run good in Florida. All his races here are good. I’m not sure why he didn’t run [well] in New York but he always runs his race here and puts in a good effort. That’s all we’re looking for. He’s training really great and I wouldn’t have taken the chance if he hadn’t come out of his race so good. It’s obviously a shot in the dark, but he can always go back and run in those allowance races.”

Simon was part of a large group of horsemen who gathered in the winner’s circle following Unitarian’s victory in last year’s inaugural running, including Jerkens himself, who presented the winner’s trophy.

“It was a nice day. It was kind of like his last public hurrah. At the time, obviously, we didn’t know but I guess you never really know. We’re all day-to-day,” Simon said. “It certainly has some significance that it’s named after him. It’s still kind of weird that he’s not here anymore. Life goes on, and they’re great memories. I’m fortunate that I had the chance to spend time with him. The life lessons you learned from him were more important than anything about training racehorses.”

Saturday Breakfast to Feature Eclipse Winner Tyler Gaffalione
Tyler Gaffalione, named as champion apprentice jockey at last weekend’s 45th annual Eclipse Awards at Gulfstream Park, will be the special guest Saturday morning during Breakfast at Gulfstream.

Born and raised in Davie, Gaffalione led all apprentices in 2015 with 1,137 starts and 182 wins. He also won his first career riding titles at Gulfstream’s spring and summer meets and was the top apprentice at last winter’s Championship Meet at Gulfstream.

Gaffalione will be joined by agent Walter Blum Jr.

Breakfast runs from 7-10 a.m. with free tram tours of Gulfstream’s barn area. Admission is free. Breakfast is $10 per person. Children under three eat free.

Source: Gulfstream Park

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