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Silks Run Stakes 2024 | Gulfstream Park Picks
Big Invasion (Michael Burns Photo)

Silks Run Stakes 2024 | Gulfstream Park Picks

Reeves Thoroughbred Racing’s multiple graded-stakes winner Big Invasion, most recently beaten a neck in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) four months ago, chases the $1 million mark in purse earnings as he makes his 5-year-old debut in Saturday’s $100,000 Silks Run at Gulfstream Park.

The Silks Run for 4-year-olds and up, scheduled for five furlongs on the grass, serves as supporting stake to the $125,000 Hurricane Bertie (G3) for fillies and mares 4 and older sprinting 6 ½ furlongs on the main track.

Post time for the first of 11 races is 12:10 p.m.

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Big Invasion, trained by Christophe Clement, is defending champion in the Silks Run, making his typical late run to get up by three-quarters of a length as the favorite in his 2023 season opener. It was the seventh win in a span of eight starts that included a six-race win streak in 2022.

After briefly giving consideration to starting his campaign far from home, the connections opted instead to make a title defense at Gulfstream where he will have the services of regular rider Joel Rosario, who has spent the winter riding at Santa Anita, Oaklawn Park and Fair Grounds. They drew Post 2 in a field of eight.

“We like getting him started in [this] race,” Reeves said. “We had considered Saudi Arabia, but we didn’t want to start with what was almost a seven-furlong race. So, we thought let Joel come down to Gulfstream Park for the day and ride him and then from there kick off what we hope will be a big year for him.”

A $72,000 son of Declaration of War, Big Invasion has been first or second in 12 of 15 career starts, eight of them wins, seven of those in stakes, for $954,119 in purses earned. He is 3-for-4 lifetime at Gulfstream, breaking his maiden second time out and first earning stakes credentials in the 2022 Texas Glitter, both five furlongs on the grass. The latter came in 55.87 seconds, just .26 off the course record.

“His consistency has been remarkable,” Reeves said. “He has such a great kick at the end. Really all he needs is a clean trip. If you look back at some of his races, it’s been a matter of just not being able to get out of the traffic and go. But he’s just such a talent and I’m excited to get him going. Hopefully this race will get the juices flowing and we’ve got some big races coming up for him.”

While his best running has been done at Gulfstream, Big Invasion has taken his act on the road to win stakes in New York and Canada, topped by the 5 ½-furlong Quick Call (G3) in 2022 at Saratoga and six-furlong Nearctic (G2) on yielding ground last fall at Woodbine.

In his most recent start, Big Invasion found himself repeatedly in tight quarters in the five-furlong Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) in November at Santa Anita and had to settle for second behind Nobals. Both horses were sent off at odds of 12-1.

“I’m over the moon excited to get him back going,” Reeves said. “It’s so hard to go from November to March when you’ve got a horse with that much talent sitting on the bench, but he’s been training super. I think he looks as good as he ever has from a physical standpoint, very muscular and his coat and everything. He’s ready to go. I’m looking forward to a big effort.”

Trainer Laura Cazares counters with the pair of Yes I Am Free and Panther Island, both owned by Golden Kernel Racing Stable. Panther Island, claimed for $62,500 last January, finished eighth in the 2023 Silks Run and was off until December, winning two straight in his comeback including the five-furlong Janus at Gulfstream on New Year’s Eve. Last out, the 5-year-old son of late champion Speightstown was second in the Feb. 10 Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint.

Yes I Am Free, 8, won the 2019 Texas Glitter and was claimed out of an April 2021 win, also for $62,500. He has since won seven of 21 starts including the Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint when it held Grade 3 status in 2022 and 2023, as well as the 2022 Silks Run. Last year, Yes I Am Free ran second to Big Invasion.

Hammer Time Stable and SOK Racing’s Coppola goes after a second straight stakes victory in the Silks Run, after rallying from next-to-last to beat Panther Island by a half-length in the Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint.

It was the first win in four turf tries at Gulfstream for the 5-year-old, who was fourth by 1 ¼ lengths in the Janus and lasat year ran third in the Jim McKay Turf Sprint on the undercard of the Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico.

“He’s all right,” trainer Dale Romans said. “He ran hard last time. He ran well all year last year, too, so he’ll probably do the same thing this time around. Hopefully, he run the same way.”

Completing the field are:

  • Rockcrest, sixth by a half-length at odds of 104-1 to Big Invasion in the Nearctic
  • New York-bred stakes winner Itsallcomintogetha
  • Kanthari, a front-running winner last out sprinting five furlongs on the Gulfstream turf Jan. 5 in his first start in eight months
  • Storm the Court, winless in 11 turf tries and 20 starts overall since his 45-1 upset of the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1)