On Saturday Gulfstream Park hosts the second legs of the Florida Sire Stakes (FSS) series for juveniles sired by nominated stallions standing in Florida – the Affirmed and Susan’s Girl – and both $200,000 divisions featuring nine runners.
The Affirmed is restricted to colts and geldings, and the top five from the August 5 Dr. Fager division all line back up in the seven-furlong affair.
Phantom Ro made his stakes bow in the Dr. Fager following a 2 1/4-length score to break his maiden at Gulfstream on July 8. He recorded a 2 3/4-length victory in the first leg of the FSS series with jockey Edgard Zayas aboard and retains the rider in this spot for trainer Ralph Nicks.
“Phantom Ro is doing very well. So far his record is unblemished and he’s done everything we’ve asked him to,” Nicks said. “He’s showed some versatility. In his first race he got away bad, he stalked a little bit and was handy enough to be in the race around the turn and drew off nicely.
“Last time he ran heads up with the leaders in the stallion series and drew off late. I don’t think he’s one-dimensional and obviously he has some quality about him based on what he’s done.”
Runner-up to Phantom Ro in the Dr. Fager was Dunk, who sought his second win after breaking his maiden by 8 3/4 lengths in his third try. The Stanley Gold pupil reunites with Emisael Jaramillo for the Affirmed and will be sporting blinkers for the first time.
“He looked like he was lost out there, but he kept going. He was looking around. He didn’t know where he was going. It was just that he was going faster than everyone else,” Gold explained the equipment change. “We had been talking about blinkers for a long, long time. When they’re running good, you don’t want to make a change. In hindsight, I should have put the blinkers on.
“He ran good to finish second but I was disappointed. I hope the blinkers make the difference and he goes about his business. I don’t think it will have a negative effect and hopefully it will have a positive effect.”
Soutache finished third in the Dr. Fager, just a half-length behind Dunk and a head up on Majestic Secret in fourth. Kingston Pike rounded out the top five that day behind stablemates Phantom Ro and Soutache.
“Soutache is doing well. He had a good trip last time and even though he didn’t get it done he wasn’t beaten very far so a little bit of improvement from him would be nice,” Nicks said. “Kingston Pike kind of ran a dull effort after being gelded but he’s been showing a little more life than he was so we’ll give him another opportunity.”
Nicks actually has four of the nine runners in the Affirmed, as he’ll also send out maiden debut winner Capital S. Completing the field are recent maiden scorers Cowboy Bob, Highborn and World of Trouble, the latter of whom romped by 14 lengths to take his debut at Gulfstream on August 10.
Two races before the Affirmed, Go Astray will rematch with the second through sixth-place runners from the August 5 Desert Vixen division of the FSS in the Susan’s Girl division.
The Angel Rodriguez trainee recorded her sixth lifetime start in that contest, leading all the way home to post a 4 3/4-length victory under returning jockey Jose Batista at 10-1.
“She’s doing really good. She came back in a good form and we’re feeling really confident for Saturday’s race,” Rodriguez said. “It think she will be very tough. She is 100 percent for sure. I think she is the horse to beat in Saturday’s race.”
Awesome Mass finished second as the 3-5 favorite in the Desert Vixen, and will be looking to turn the tables on Go Astray. The Gold-trained daughter of Brethren broke her maiden by 11 lengths in her third start before making her stakes bow in the Desert Vixen.
“She stumbled twice coming out of there. It wasn’t the fact that she grabbled herself. It was that she wasn’t up with the field. She had to race up there to get her position,” Gold said. “They went :44.93 for the half – that obviously took something out of her. When she went to put in her run, she wasn’t in a position to stay with the leader. The leader had the jump on her, but she hung on strong for second.
“She doesn’t need the lead,” Gold added. “That doesn’t matter. What matters is that we don’t have to rush up to get position. We need to break with the field.”
Pantyhose was just a nose behind Awesome Mass in the Desert Vixen, and is still looking for her first career win for Nicks.
“She’s steady. She just keeps grinding away,” the conditioner said. “She should like the distance. We’ll let her tell us how far she wants to go. It’s looking like the more ground she gets, the better. Hopefully we can catch up this time.”
Starship Bonita, Right On and Valid Interest finished fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively, in the Desert Vixen and line back up here. Rounding out the Susan’s Girl field are last-out winner Reagan’s Rose, and maidens Harbin Ice and Dessert Honeys.