How great is Gretzky? The 3-year-old colt GRETZKY THE GREAT, likely to be named Champion 2-year-old of 2020 at the April Sovereign Awards and an early favourite for the Queen’s Plate, returns to racing Friday night, Feb. 26 at Turfway Park in Florence, Kentucky.
Gretzky the Great, winner of the Grade 1, $250,000 Summer Stakes, is primed for his 3-year-old debut as the 3-1 favourite in the $100,000 John Battaglia Memorial.
For the first time this year, the John Battaglia Memorial joined the Road to the Kentucky Derby Prep Season and will award the Top 4 finishers points on a 10-4-2-1 scale. The 1 1/16-mile event run over the Tapeta surface is carded as Race 5 with a post time of 8:16 p.m. ET. The race attracted a full field of 12 3-year-olds with one also-eligible entrant. First post on Friday’s program is 6 p.m.
Gretzky the Great, owned by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Gary Barber and trained by Mark Casse, previously ran sixth in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf and was defeated 6 1/4 lengths by Fire at Will — one of the top interests in Saturday’s $300,000 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park. Prior to his sixth-place effort, Gretzky the Great had a trio of victories, including his 3 1/4-length score in the Sept. 20 Summer run at one mile on the turf. The Nyquist colt has one prior start on the Tapeta surface, where he broke his maiden by 4 1/4 lengths. Gerardo Corrales will have the mount from the rail.
In total, the race attracted six Triple Crown nominees, including Robert LaPenta’s recent three-length maiden winner Kinetic Sky, who is slated in invade Turfway for trainer Brad Cox from his Fair Grounds base. The son of Runhappy will be ridden by Deshawn Parker from post No. 5.
Another horse likely to garner attention is Sandin Syndicate Stable’s $100,000 Ellis Park Juvenile winner Pico d’Oro. Trained by Bill Morey, Pico d’Oro will stretch out to 1 1/16 miles for the first time. In his last start, the son of Curlin finished third in the $97,000 Jimmy Winkfield at Aqueduct. John McKee will ride Pico d’Oro from post 6.
We will find out more about how good Ontario-bred CURLIN’S CATCH is on Feb. 27 at Gulfstream Park. The 3-year-old Curlin filly, bred by Sam-Son Farms, meets the 2020 Champion 2-Year-Old filly Vequist in the Grade 2 Davona Dale Stakes at one mile.
Breeze Easy’s stakes-winning gal will be among the horses looking to spoil Vequist’s season debut. Trained by Hall of Famer Mark Casse, the bay daughter of two-time Horse of the Year and 2014 Hall of Famer Curlin made her first two starts last fall on the all-weather surface at Woodbine before getting time off.
Casse moved Curlin’s Catch to the dirt for her sophomore opener Jan. 3 going a mile at Gulfstream, and she responded with a front-running 2 ¾-length triumph over next-out winner Tabor Hall. She stretched out for the Suncoast Stakes Feb. 6 at Tampa Bay Downs, rating just off the pace before splitting horses and sprinting clear to a 4 ½-length victory. She is 8-1 on the morning line.
“In the last race we had actually planned on being a little closer, but it didn’t work out that way and it was fine. She handled it well,” Casse said. “We aren’t going to be very far off of it. We are cutting back from the mile and 40 yards and two turns to one turn, so that’s a little different. But she’s not going to be far back.
“She’s two-for-two on the dirt and definitely headed in the right direction,” he added. “This will be a true test on Saturday, [to see] where she fits in with the 3-year-old filly gang.”
Jose Ortiz has the call aboard Curlin’s Catch from Post 4.
Trainer BARBARA MINSHALL starts Bruce Lunsford’s exciting filly Designer Ready in the Grade 3 Herecomesthebride Stakes at Gulfstream, race 3 on the card.
*Also at Turfway Park Friday night, Ontario-sired ROCKET RELOAD is in the Cincinnati Trophy Stakes for owners Denny Andrews and Sandra Lazaruk. The Kentucky bred Reload filly is 5 to 1 for the 6 1/2 furlong event.