One dedicated Ontario owner and breeder who has heavily supported the industry for decades, John Burness, had some excitement on Saturday at Gulfstream Park.

Burness’ improving 3-year-old Florida-bred CLEAR DESTINATION just about pulled off a 35-to-1 upset in a fancy allowance race on the turf with trainer Bill Tharrenos.

The son of Seek Again, who has shown a love for the grass, grabbed the lead late in the stretch run of the 1 1/16 mile event and was only passed late by $850,000 purchase Greyes Creek from the Chad Brown barn. Clear Destination, a $24,000 purchase by Burness as a yearling was coming off two fast workout times and ran to those preps. The time of the race was 1:40.13 and was the third straight for Greyes Creek, a son of Pioneerofthe Nile.

Burness’ daughter Ashlee trains the stable at Woodbine and Clear Destination had recently posted an 87 Beyer Figure in a good turf run at Woodbine before landing sixth in the Toronto Cup.

We could see Clear Destination next in the $100,000 Sunshine Millions Turf on January 16, a race for Florida or California-bred horses. The race offers a $25,000 (US) bonus for a Florida bred winner.

Earlier on Saturday, Colebrook homebred OVERBEARING (Bear’s Kid – Miss Yankee by Yankee Gentleman) won a $15,000 claiming race at Mahoning Valley. The 4-year-old won the 6 furlong race at 5 to 1 and is trained by Joseph Poole.

Burness also has horses at Tampa Bay Downs with trainer Mike Wright and two are set to race in the coming days.
El Valor and Insired Trading are entered today but both are re-entered on the 24th and 23rd respectively.

The Colebrook strings at Mahoning and Charles Town and Gulfstream, since Woodbine ended, have done well with a record of 2 – 3 – 3 from 13 starters.

*Also at Gulfstream, the first foal of Canadian champion STRUT THE COURSE led all the way to win his grass debut. KENTUCKY PHAROAH, owned and bred by Calumet Farm, was making his third career start, first on turf, following sharp grass workout times.

Calumet bought Strut the Course for $200,000 as a broodmare. The daughter of Strut the Stage – Bold Course was a fabulous homebred for the late John Unger. Trained by Barbara Minshall, Strut the Course won over $1 million including the Grade 2 Dance Smartly Stakes.


Kentucky Pharoah winning Dec. 19 at Gulfstream – Gulfstream Park photo

*Gulfstream Park’s Grade 3 Mr. Prospector Stakes, a 7 furlong stakes race, had a super field that included Breeders’ Cup Sprint third-place finisher Firenze Fire but it was $9,000 weanling purchase SLEEPY EYES TODD who roared to the win, holding off ‘Fire’ for his 8th win in 15 races. This grey colt by Paddy o’Prado is headed next to the Pegasus World Cup.

What is fascinating about Sleepy Eyes Todd is not only was he plucked by Jonathon Wong for such a small amount for owner David Cobb of Scottsdale, Arizona, but this grey 4-year-old is a true road warrior.

The colt has won stakes races now at Gulfstream, Keeneland, Charles Town and Fonner Park. He won his maiden at Remington Park and two races at Canterbury in the summer of 2019.

Tyler Gafflione rode him at Gulfstream to the Mr. Prospector win and he was the horse’s 9th consecutive different jockey.

Sleepy Eyes Todd, who was coming off a last-to-first victory in the seven-furlong Lafayette on the Nov. 7 Breeders’ Cup undercard at Keeneland, was the recipient of a patient and well-judged ride from Tyler Gaffalione, his ninth different rider in has last nine starts. The 4-year-old son of Paddy O’Prado broke well from the starting gate before settling in fifth behind loose-on-the-lead longshot pacesetter Wind of Change, who set fractions of 22.07 and 44.35 seconds for the first half-mile. Sleepy Eyes Todd advanced along the rail on the turn into the homestretch in pursuit of the tiring pacesetter, while Firenze Fire, the 5-2 favorite, slipped off the rail to make a bid between horses at the top of the stretch. Gaffalione eased Sleepy Eyes Todd off the rail to pass Wind of Change and the Kentucky-bred colt held off the challenge of Firenze Fire by a half-length.

“Everything set up perfectly. He broke well and put himself in the race. I was able to get a nice tracking spot inside. He gave me all the confidence going into the stretch and once he found a spot he accelerated and finished the job. All the credit goes to the trainer. He did a fabulous job getting him ready for today,” Gaffalione said.

“To be honest, If you look at his form he’s run in all the big races across the country and he’s run at every track and he takes his form with him everywhere he goes, so you know he’s consistent and he shows up every time,” he added. “We just had to work out a trip. I thought I’d be tracking Firenze Fire but I wound up a little bit in front of him which I didn’t mind, and got the jump on him.”

Firenze Fire, a $2.2 million earner who finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) last time out, settled in seventh along be backstretch before following Sleepy Eyes Todd with an inside run on the far turn. Irad Ortiz Jr. took him off the rail on the turn into the stretch and the multiple graded-stakes winners kicked in nicely in the stretch, only to fall short of catching the winner.

*At Fair Grounds, the exciting Maxfield was back in fine form.

A bit of an enigma despite an undefeated record coming in, the Godolphin homebred Maxfield once again answered the immediate question in front of him, taking the Tenacious Stakes in what was just his second start as a 3-year-old to cap the 13-race Santa Super Saturday program at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.

Twice derailed by ankle injuries, the Brendan Walsh trainee returned from his second extended layoff to win for the fourth consecutive time to begin his career.

“I’m relieved,” Walsh said. “It’s nice to get him back (to the races) and have him run so well. He was working so well going into it, you’re just looking for confirmation. He gave us what we needed to see. Hopefully he comes out of it ok and we move forward from here.”

Away alertly for jockey Florent Geroux, who won four races on the day, the sophomore son of Street Sense put himself in a perfect pressing position just off the flank of the pacesetting Cool Bobby through moderate fractions of 24.63 and 48.39. The .50-1 favorite then engaged the leader on the far turn, took over at the top of the stretch, and won by a comfortable 2 ½ lengths in a final time of 1:42.35 for 1/16 miles over a fast track. Sonneman finished well late to be second and it was another 1 ¼ lengths back to Dinar in third.

“This is a horse who is maturing,” Geroux said. “When I worked him out of the gate a few weeks ago, he was very sharp away from there, so I was pretty confident he’d be up closer than he had been in his previous races. He got me in a great position and he was in a nice rhythm. He was comfortable and happy and I loved my spot. Turning for home he gave me another gear and I kept him busy all the way to the wire because I wanted to make sure he got something out of it.”

Off slowly in the career debut over a one turn mile at Churchill and the subsequent start in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland, before rattling home late to win both, Maxfield was forced to miss the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with an ankle chip. When the Kentucky Derby was pushed back to the first Saturday in September due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the connections were in a better position to bring their prized colt back slowly.

A return run in the Matt Winn (G3) on May 23 at Churchill proved to be adventurous, but successful. Five-wide and shuffled back while in tight on the first turn and hung seven-wide on the bend for home, Maxfield leveled off in the stretch before running down Ny Traffic late, and with a little in reserve.

“He was immature as a 2-year-old,” Walsh said. “I think he would have been more prominent in the Matt Winn in May if he hadn’t been stopped a couple of times.”

Following a June 10th workout at Keeneland which came in preparation for the Blue Grass (G2) Stakes, Maxfield was discovered to have a non-displaced condylar fracture in his right front cannon bone. Following a successful surgery, he resumed serious training in late October, and Walsh thought the Tenacious would be the perfect race to get Maxfield back in the game.