It was a close-run thing, but Heart to Heart maintained his undefeated turf record at Gulfstream Park with a neck victory over Flatlined in last month’s $100,000 El Prado. On Saturday, the speedball will try to extend the streak to four in a title defense of the $200,000 Ft. Lauderdale (G2) over 1 1/16 miles.
The 123-pound highweight, Heart to Heart has a difficult task ahead as the Ft. Lauderdale has also attracted Divisidero and Lukes Alley. Divisidero posted a mild upset of the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs last May, and then ran fifth in a deep renewal of the Manhattan (G1), won by Flintshire, before hitting the sidelines for the remainder of the season.
Lukes Alley also had a brief 2016 campaign. Second by a half-length to Heart in Heart in this race a year ago, he went on to capture the Gulfstream Park Turf H. (G1) by a neck. His lone interim start was fifth in the Autumn (G2) over Woodbine’s Tapeta track in early November.
Heart to Heart faded to fourth in the $150,000 Artie Schiller at Aqueduct two starts back, and that race’s winner, Macagone, is joined by fellow participants Night Prowler (third) and Jay Gatsby (seventh), the latter previously the narrow runner-up in the Bernard Baruch H. (G2) and Knickerbocker (G3).
Multiple French Group 3 winner Almanaar, fourth and third in two allowances for Chad Brown since his importation, is another potential threat, while multiple stakes winners Diamond Bachelor and Copingaway could apply early pressure to Heart to Heart.
Another speedball will likely be favored to take the day’s first graded turf stakes as Isabella Sings, recent winner of the My Charmer H. (G3), will try to lead all the way in the $150,000 Marshua’s River (G3) for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles.
Her main competition is likely to come from 2016 Marshua’s River heroine Sandiva, My Charmer runner-up Sea Coast, and dual allowance scorer Dickinson.
The $150,000 Hal’s Hope (G3), a one-mile test for older horses, could yield a starter or two for the newly-created $400,000 Poseidon on the Pegasus World Cup undercard January 28. However, Ami’s Flatter might not be one of them having developed a strong fondness for one-turn races last term, which included wins in a Gulfstream allowance and the Commonwealth (G3) at Keeneland, both over seven furlongs.
Multiple graded stakes winner Tommy Macho, hero of the course-and-distance Fred W. Hooper (G3) last February, disappointed in two New York appearances last fall following a lengthy spell, but could bounce back here for Todd Pletcher. Team Colors, three times stakes-placed since his importation from France, and recent Millions Classic Preview winner Mr. Jordan, are both seemingly capable.
Exiting a 9 1/4-length allowance score in the slop is Dolphus, a Lookin at Lucky half-brother to 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra. He, along with last-out Churchill allowance scorer Bird Song and Cigar Mile (G1) third Realm, have less stakes experience then others previously mentioned but more upside.