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Gulfstream Park Preview | Tropical Park Derby 2023: Armstrong Gets 2nd Chance On Turf
Armstrong (Coglianese Photo)

Gulfstream Park Preview | Tropical Park Derby 2023: Armstrong Gets 2nd Chance On Turf

Trainer Jose D’Angelo has decided to give Soldi Stable LLC and Ohana Racing LLC’s Amstrong a second chance on turf in Saturday’s $125,000 Tropical Park Derby at Gulfstream Park.

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The multiple stakes-winning son of Tapwrit’s only prior start on turf, a distant off-the-board finish in the July 7 Manila (G3) at Belmont Park, will hardly flatter his chances in the 1 1/16-mile stakes for 3-year-olds on Saturday’s 11-race program that will also feature the $100,000 Tropical Park Oaks, $100,000 Mr. Prospector (G3) and the $100,000 Sugar Swirl (G3).

“I know we have a heavy handicap against the other horses, but we have to try him because he gallops good on the grass,” said D’Angelo, who stables Amstrong at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream’s satellite training center in Palm Beach County.

Following a pair of main-track sprint races to open his career, Amstrong graduated with style by four lengths while making his two-turn and Tapeta debuts April 15. He came right back to score by 3 ¾ lengths in the Not Surprising Stakes on Tapeta June 10, before being shipped to Belmont Park for his turf debut in the Manila (G3). Sent to post at 30-1, Amstrong was never a factor while finishing seventh.

“When I decided to go to New York, he was galloping very good on grass,” trainer Jose D’Angelo said.

Amstrong went on to finish a respectable third in a dirt allowance at Laurel before returning to Gulfstream, where he extended his undefeated streak on Tapeta to four in a row with back-to-back victories in the Bear’s Den and Showing Up. He sustained his first loss on the all-weather surface with a close second-place finish in the $100,000 Sabal Palm while facing older rivals for the first time.

“I like him because he’s improving with every race, if you look at his numbers,” D’Angelo said. “Last time was his first time against older horses and he handled it very well.”

Miguel Vasquez, who has been aboard for all five of Amstrong’s Tapeta starts, has the return call.

Amstrong will concede considerable turf experience to Taylor Creek’s Anglophile while carrying equal weight (124 pounds) with the Brian Lynch-trained graded-stakes winner.

Anglophile is coming off an off-the-board finish over a sloppy Aqueduct track in the off-the-turf Jockey Club Derby Invitational at Aqueduct. In his prior start, the son of English Channel won the 1 5/16-mile Dueling Grounds Derby (G3) at Kentucky Downs.

“He’s a mile-and-a-half type marathon horse cutting back in distance. We’ve freshened him up a little bit. We’ll give him a try,” Lynch said. “There’s a little bit of speed in there. He should get a good pace to run at. He’ll be running late.”

Anglophile, who will be ridden by Hall of Famer John Velazquez, overcame trouble in last season’s 7 ½-furlong Cutler Bay to finish a fast-closing second at Gulfstream.

“We got a little sharper work into him. He’s not going the marathon distance, but we’ve got him on his toes,” Lynch said.

Live Oak Plantation’s Souper Blessing enters the Tropical Park Derby off a second-place finish on Tapeta in the Showing Up, in which Amstrong closed late to prevail by a neck. The Michael Trombetta-trained son of Temple City finished third in the Toronto Cup at Woodbine in his first and only race on turf in his prior start.

Edwin Gonzalez has the return mount on the homebred colt who is eligible for a $25,000 FTOBA win bonus.

West Point Thoroughbreds and Woodford Racing LLC and Edward Hudson Jr.’s Ohana Honor is a late-developing son of Honor Code who will be seeking his first stakes victory.

Winless in his first six starts on dirt and grass, the Shug McGaughey trainee graduated on the main track at Colonial Downs, where he came right back to capture a 1 1/16-mile allowance on turf by four lengths. Ohana Honor, who will be ridden by Tyler Gaffalione, went on to finish second in the mile Gio Ponti on turf at Aqueduct in his most recent start Oct. 6.

Freddy Lewis Jr.’s Smokey Mandate will also be searching for his first stakes victory Saturday, but the Michael Maker-trained son of Strong Mandate is multiple stakes-placed at Churchill Downs and Kentucky Downs.

M Racing Group LLC’s Eyes On the King, who finished third behind Amstrong and Souper Blessing in the Showing Up, and John Oxley and Breeze Easy LLC’s Boppy O, a graded-stakes winner who won the Jersey Derby at Monmouth, were entered in the Tropical Park Derby by Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse.

Daniel Walters, Dennis Smith, Anthony Smith and trainer Rohan Crichton’s Legacy Isle, John Conforti’s April Fools Andy, Arnmore Thoroughbreds LLC and Belmar Racing and Breeding LLC’s Torigo, trainer Dan Hurtak’s Mutaawid, and R Larry Johnson’s Souzak round out the 12-horse field.

Pocket Aces Racing LLC’s Irish Aces and B A Bloodstock’s Harrington are also eligible.