While the $16 million Pegasus World Cup (G1) will garner all the attention on Saturday, Gulfstream Park also hosts four other graded events, two of which will take place over the main track.
First up will be the $175,000 Fred. W. Hooper Stakes (G3) sending a field of 11 older runners a mile on the dirt.
Giuseppe the Great seeks his first stakes win in this spot for trainer Nick Zito. The Lookin at Lucky four-year-old ran second while making his black-type bow in the Woody Stephens Stakes (G2) last year and followed that two races later with a runner-up effort in the Jim Dandy Stakes (G2). The bay colt also finished third in the Pennsylvania Derby (G1), and brings a December 10 neck score against Gulfstream allowance foes into this contest. Joel Rosario will be in the irons for the first time.
Tommy Macho easily captured the 2016 running of the Hooper and would go on to take the Hal’s Hope Stakes (G3) last January. That was the Todd Pletcher trainee’s only win of 2017, though he did fill the third spot in both the Carter Handicap (G1) and Metropolitan Handicap (G1). The Macho Uno six-year-old returns in this spot off a four-month break, having last been seen finishing fourth in the Kelso Handicap (G2), and gets Luis Saez in aboard.
First Growth missed by only a half-length to X Y Jet last out in the Mr. Prospector Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream, and was a nice 3 1/2-length victor of the Claiming Crown Express prior to that. The six-year-old gelded son of Candy Ride finished first in his only other stakes attempt, the Senator Robert C. Byrd Memorial Stakes, but was disqualified to seventh. Gerardo Corrales has the call as First Growth tries graded rivals again.
Also in with a chance are Grade 3 runner-ups Tale of Silence, who finished second in the City of Laurel Stakes to close out his sophomore campaign in November, and Game Over, fourth in the Penn Derby last out, as well as Eight Town, who brings a 4-3-0-0 mark into this, his stakes bow.
Two races later, the $175,000 Hurricane Bertie Stakes (G3) attracted a dozen distaffers to sprint seven furlongs on the main track, including last year’s winner.
Defending champion Curlin’s Approval had an on and off year last season, racking up wins in the Princess Rooney Stakes (G2) and Royal Delta Stakes (G2) as well as this contest. She won easily on each of those occasions, but all except one of her losses were definitive as well. That one exception came last out in the Rampart Stakes (G3), where the Happy Alter charge finished second. Luis Saez held the reins that day and retains the mount.
Rich Mommy has triumphed in four of her last five, including her stakes bow in the Sugar Swirl Stakes (G3) on December 16. The Algorithms four-year-old gets Emisael Jaramillo aboard as she attempts to make it two Grade 3 wins in a row.
Moonlit Promise went three-for-three in 2017, all against stakes company. The Josie Carroll-trained Malibu Moon mare captured the Sweet Briar Too Stakes, Ontario Fashion Stakes (Can-G3) and Bessarabian Stakes (Can-G2) to run her mark to 9-6-2-0. The Hurricane Bertie will be her first start outside of Woodbine, and she brings regular jockey Gary Boulanger along for the ride.
Jordan’s Henny was a contender on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks last season, placing in both the Davona Dale Stakes (G2) and Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2), but failed to factor in the Run for the Lilies when finishing 12th. The gray daughter of Henny Hughes found the winner’s circle a month later, romping by 7 1/2 lengths in an allowance/optional claimer under the Twin Spires, and was third in the Iowa Oaks (G3) in July. Trained by Michael Tomlinson, the filly makes her four-year-old bow in this spot having last run third in the September 23 Dogwood Stakes at Churchill.
Other Hurricane Bertie contenders include Shar Ran, winner of her last pair including her stakes bow in the Powerless Handicap, and Grade 2-placed Apologynotaccepted, unraced since a well-beaten, last-of-three run in the Shuvee Handicap (G3) last July.