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2023 Dania Beach Stakes Preview & FREE Picks | Major Dude Returns Following Breeders’ Cup Defeat
Major Dude (NYRA)

2023 Dania Beach Stakes Preview & FREE Picks | Major Dude Returns Following Breeders’ Cup Defeat

Magic & Mike preview the 2023 Dania Beach Stakes from Gulfstream Park, then give their top picks & long shots. Will the Todd Pletcher-trained Major Dude get back on track following his defeat in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1)? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!

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The track press release:

R. Larry Johnson’s Souzak is scheduled to make his U.S. debut in Saturday’s $100,000 Dania Beach at Gulfstream Park, where the son of Kodiac will seek his fourth victory in a row.

The Dania Beach, a mile turf stakes for 3-year-olds, will co-headline an 11-race program with the $100,000 Ginger Brew, a mile stakes for 3-year-old fillies on turf.

Souzak was purchased at the Arqana Arc Sale for $392,080 only hours after collecting his third straight victory Oct. 1 at Longchamp.

“He won the day of the sale. Larry picked him out, and I contacted Nicolas de Watrigant,” said trainer Graham Motion, who called upon the prominent French bloodstock agent to bid on the French-bred colt on Johnson’s behalf.

Following the sale, Motion had considered entering Souzak in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) at Keeneland.

“Timing-wise, it would have given us five weeks if we wanted to take a shot, but he got sick,” Motion said.

Souzak recovered at Motion’s training base at Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland, where he worked three times before shipping to Palm Meadows, Gulfstream Park’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach Country where he breezed once in preparation for the Dania Beach.

“He’s training well, but I don’t have a feel for how he’ll do Saturday,” Motion said. “He’s a nice horse, a straightforward horse.”

Joel Rosario has the mount aboard Souzak, who is scheduled to clash with six rivals in the Dania Beach, including Spendthrift Farm LLC’s Major Dude and Mark Grier’s Candidate.

Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher trains Major Dude, who most recently finished ninth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. The son of Bolt d’Oro captured captured the Pilgrim (G1) in his turf debut at Belmont in his prior start.

“He’s a very straightforward, very professional colt. He always has been. He took to the grass really well in the Pilgrim,” Pletcher said. “Unfortunately, he drew Post 13 in the Juvenile [Turf] and he was never able to really tuck in and save any ground. I thought he ran really well to only get beat 3 ¾ lengths. I think from a different draw it could have been closer.”

Irad Ortiz Jr. has the return mount aboard Major Dude.

Arnaud Delacour-trained Candidate is undefeated in two turf starts following an off-the-board finish in his debut over a sloppy Laurel main track. The son of Exaggerator broke his maiden with a front-running 2 ¼-length score at Laurel before winning by 4 ½ lengths in a Tampa allowance.

“He’s done nothing wrong on the turf,” Delacour said. “Obviously, he’s got tactical speed. He was a touch aggressive the last time at Tampa, but after about a furlong and a half he settled nicely. Hopefully he can do the same on Saturday.”

Spencer McDonald’s Cheerful Charlie, a son of Adios Charlie who is multiple stakes-placed on Tapeta; Tami Bobo and Lugamo Racing Stable LLC’s Congruent, who finished third in the Pulpit in his first start on turf last time out; Marie Trombetta and Three Diamonds Farm’s Barzini, who is 2-for-2 on turf at five-furlongs, graduating at Laurel before scoring a gutsy optional claiming allowance last time out; and Watters Edge LLC’s Worthington, who as won his last two starts on turf at Keenland and Churchill Downs; round out the field.