HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Having successfully ended a seven-month layoff in her sophomore debut, Off the Tracks puts her unbeaten record on the line in her return to graded stakes company in Saturday’s $250,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2).
The 46th running of the 1 1/16-mile Oaks for 3-year-old fillies is part of a blockbuster 14-race program that features eight stakes, seven of them graded, anchored by the 65th running of the $1 million Xpressbet.com Florida Derby (G1).
A bay daughter of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, Off the Tracks enters the Oaks off a 4 ½-length victory in the 6 ½-furlong Margate Handicap Feb. 11 at Gulfstream. It was her first race since winning the six-furlong Schuylerville (G3) last July at Saratoga in her second career start.
A debut winner last June at Gulfstream, Off the Tracks was purchased privately following the Margate by Newtown Anner Stud and Head of Plains Partners and transferred to Championship Meet-leading trainer Todd Pletcher.
Pletcher has won four of the last six runnings of the Oaks, with In Tune (2014), Dreaming of Julia (2013), R. Heat Lightning (2011) and Devil May Care (2010). Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez rode the first three of those winners, and will be aboard the program favorite again from outside post seven. All horses will carry 122 pounds.
“We’ve been very impressed by the filly overall. She’s a big, strong, imposing sort that trains very willingly. Her breezes have been good and her record obviously speaks for itself,” Pletcher said. “It would seem with a pedigree like hers that the stretch out in distance should suit her well. We’re looking forward to running her.”
Off the Tracks shows four works at Palm Beach Downs since joining Pletcher, two each at four and five furlongs, most recently breezing five-eighths in 1:01.19 March 26, third-fastest of 10 horses.
“Basically we just wanted to get to know her a little bit when she first came in. She came in excellent condition so we kind of had this race in mind,” Pletcher said. “We put her on a schedule that would hopefully set her up for it and she hasn’t missed a beat and has trained accordingly. We’ve been pleased with the way she’s worked and the way she’s galloped out. We’re optimistic that she’s held form.”
In each of her starts, Off the Tracks has raced on or near the lead, something Pletcher expects to continue in the Oaks.
“She seems like a filly with natural speed and I wouldn’t think we’d be looking to change any tactics,” he said. “We’ll survey the way the race looks on paper and post positions and that sort of thing but I think with a filly that’s been showing some speed sprinting that in a stretch out scenario that she’d be prominently placed early.”
Making her 2016 debut in the Oaks is Reddam Racing’s Gomo, unraced since taking the Alcibiades (G1) Oct. 2 at Keeneland. She is trained by Santa Anita Park-based Doug O’Neill, who also has undefeated champion Nyquist in South Florida for the Derby.
“Gomo is doing fantastic. After her Grade 1 at Keeneland she chipped an ankle, so we had Dr. Cheney and Dr. Bramlage clean up her ankle. We gave her some time off and she’s back training fantastic,” O’Neill said. “We were debating over the Santa Anita Oaks against Songbird, which wasn’t real exciting, or bringing her out to Gulfstream, which we decided to do. We’re excited about it. She’s a super talented filly by Uncle Mo and we’re optimistic that she can run a big race on Saturday.”
Gomo broke her maiden going a mile on turf in her second start, then ran second in the Sorrento (G2) on dirt and third in the Del Mar Juvenile Fillies Turf before returning to the dirt for the Alcibiades, run at the Oaks distance.
“She’s been galloping really strong and she’s had four five-eighths workouts and hasn’t really missed a beat since she’s come back. She’s got a lot of miles underneath her and she’s got experience on her side,” O’Neill said. “The only thing is she hasn’t’ run in a little bit. She’s been training like the layoff won’t bother her at all and I think we’re going to see a big effort on Saturday from her.”
Mario Gutierrez, who will also ride Nyquist, has the call on Gomo from post five.
Rounding out the Oaks field are Go Maggie Go, Mo’ Green and Paola Queen, each coming off maiden victories at Gulfstream; Double Entendre, an impressive debut winner Feb. 26 at Sam Houston; and Hold On Momma, winless in two starts since breaking her maiden at Laurel Park in December.
Source: Gulfstream Park