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Leon King Stable Corp.’s Bentornato will likely be a prohibitive favorite in Saturday’s $300,000 In Reality at Gulfstream Park on the strength of an undefeated record with three consecutive stakes victories.
The In Reality will be contested at the two-turn distance of 1 1/16 miles, as will the $300,000 My Dear Girl, the FSS finale for fillies sired by accredited Florida stallions, on the opening weekend of the 2023-2024 Championship Meet at Gulfstream.
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Yet, the Jose D’Angelo trained son of Valiant Minister will still have much to prove in his bid to sweep the 2023 FTBOA Florida Sire Stakes final for 2-year-old colts and geldings sired by accredited Florida stallions.
As dominant as he has been thus far in his highly promising career, Bentornato, who seeks to become the 11th juvenile to sweep the colt and gelding division, has yet to prove himself around two turns.
“He’s a fast horse. I know he will be on the lead. I think we did everything for the horse to go the distance.,” D’Angelo said. “The horse is very talented. We’re going to be fine there.”
After rallying for a narrow debut victory at five furlongs July 1, Bentornato overcame early bumping to register an eye-catching 4 ¼-length front-running score in the six-furlong Proud Man Aug. 12. He came right back with a dominating 7 ½-length front-running win in the six-furlong FSS Dr. Fager before scoring by 2 ¾ lengths in the seven-furlong FSS Affirmed.
“We’ve gotten him to relax, and the horse has responded.,” D’Angelo said. “He’s very good running like you want. He’s learned so fast.”
His performance around two turns Saturday will likely decide the immediate future of the $170,000 purchase at the OBS March sale.
“I think this horse will make his future,” said D’Angelo, who ventured from Venezuela in 2017 and experienced much high-profile success in 2020-2021 with multiple graded stakes-placed Jesus’ Team. “If he responds the way we think, we can point him to the Florida Derby and the [Kentucky] Derby,”
Emisael Jaramillo has the return mount aboard Bentornato, who is stabled at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach County.
Ironhorse Racing Stable LLC and Harlow Stables LLC’s Mattingly, runner-up in the Affirmed, has been entered for a rematch with Bentornato in the In Reality. Like the D’Angelo trainee, Mattingly will try two turns for the first time Saturday.
“I think he has a level head and he’s rateable,” trainer Joe Orseno said. “I think he’ll be fine going two turns.”
Gulfstream-based Mattingly turned in a solid dirt debut in the Affirmed after running once on turf – a second-place finish in the Royal Palm Juvenile in his career debut at Gulfstream– and three times on Tapeta – a stakes victory in the Hollywood Beach at Gulfstream, a runner-up finish in a Woodbine stakes, as well as a maiden score at Gulfstream.
Mattingly rallied from fifth to grab second place in the Affirmed with a less-than-ideal trip.
“I thought he would handle [dirt], but you never know,” Orseno said. “He didn’t get the best trip. He got stopped and lost some momentum. He had to take up and get going again. He was coming on again. I am pretty excited about the race coming up.”
Edgard Zayas, who captured the Sunshine Meet riding title by a margin of 21 wins over his closest rival, is named to ride the son of Bucchero for the first time.
Just For Fun Stable Inc.’s Brawn brings open-stakes experience into the In Reality. The Ruben Sierra-trained son of Neolithic won his debut in August before turning in fourth-place finishes in both the Oct. 1 Aventura and Nov. 4 Armed Forces.
Leonel Reyes has the call on Brawn, who gained two-turn experience in the Armed Forces, a mile-and-70-yard stakes on Tapeta.
Secret Lover (Joe Bravo), Lasso (Luca Panici), Seminole Chief (Paco Lopez) and Cajun Fool (Miguel Vasquez) round out the field.
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