BY BROCK SHERIDAN
Leon King Stable Corp.’s Bentornato will try to keep his undefeated record intact Saturday at Gulfstream Park when the Florida-bred colt heads the $100,000 Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association Florida Sire Stakes Dr. Fager. Set at six furlongs for 2-year-old colts and geldings by FTBOA registered stallions and eligible for the lucrative Florida Sire Stakes program, the Dr. Fager shares the spotlight with the $100,000 FTBOA Florida Sire Stakes Desert Vixen for 2-year-old fillies, also at six furlongs.
The Dr. Fager and Desert Vixen are the first of three legs in their respective divisions in the Florida Sire Stakes series for 2-year-olds that will resume Oct. 21 at Gulfstream with the $200,000 Affirmed for colts and geldings and the $200,000 Susan’s Girl for fillies, both at seven furlongs. Also on Oct. 21 is the $100,000 Gil Campbell Memorial Handicap for Florida-bred 3-year-olds and older at one mile. The Gil Campbell purse adds a $50,000 bonus to be paid on a 60%-30%-10% basis to the top three finishers eligible for the Florida Sire Stakes.
The series for 2-year-olds concludes on Dec. 2 at Gulfstream with the $300,000 In Reality for colts and geldings and the $300,000 My Dear Girl for fillies, both at a mile-and-a-sixteenth.
A son of Bridlewood Farm stallion Valiant Minister, Bentornato looks to extend his unbeaten record to three for trainer Jose D’Angelo. Valiant Minister had success in the Florida Sire Stakes from his first crop in 2021 when his daughter Outfoxed won the Susan’s Girl and My Dear Girl divisions by a combined 22 ½ lengths.
Bentornato won by a neck over a sloppy five furlongs on debut against state-bred special weight maidens at Gulfstream on July 1 before dominating the $90,000 Proud Man with a four-and-a-half-length score going six furlongs at Gulfstream on Aug. 12.
“From the start, we knew we had a very nice horse,” D’Angelo said. “He was a little green the first time out. For the second race, the stake, he got a fever three weeks before the race, so he had only two workouts. He won the stake on just two workouts. That’s why I know we have a very nice horse.
“He’s in peak of condition,” D’Angelo said of Bentornato for Saturday’s race.
Bentornato is out of the Florida-bred mare Her Special Way, by Put It Back and was bred by Tanma Corp.
The dark bay colt is a two-time graduate of Ocala Breeders’ Sales having first sold for $45,000 to Pro Racing Stable out of the Stuart Morris consignment at the 2022 October Yearling Sale. He was then consigned by Gold Rock Thoroughbreds to the OBS March Sale earlier this year where Champion Equine paid $170,000 to acquire him.
He has earned $98,830 in his two victories.
Jockey Emisael Jaramillo has been aboard Bentornato in both of his previous races and gets the return mount Saturday. They have drawn the outside post in the field of 10.
Gentle Breeze, who was second to Bentornato in the Proud Man, will get another shot at his rival in the Dr. Fager.
The Stonehedge LLC homebred turned heads in his career debut at Gulfstream on June 25, winning by 12 ¾ lengths in a $25,000 maiden claiming going five furlongs over a sloppy track.
Gentle Breeze is a son of Stonehedge Farm South stallion Cajun Breeze, who has sired the winners of three of the last five editions of the Dr. Fager in Cajun Firecracker (2018), Breeze on By (2020) and Cajun’s Magic (2021).
Horses racing under the familiar green and white Stonehedge silks have won the Dr. Fager a record five times including Blazing Sword (1996), Two T’s At Two B (2012), My Brown Eyed Guy (2013), Breeze on By and Cajun’s Magic.
Gentle Breeze is out of Humorous Song, by Jimmy Creed and has earned $31,460 in his two starts.
Trainer Ralph Nicks has given the return mount on Gentle Breeze to Leonel Reyes, the Royal Palm meeting leading rider who was aboard the chestnut colt in both of his previous races. Gentle Breeze has drawn post eight.
Ocala Stud’s popular stallion The Big Beast will be represented in the Dr. Fager by Sound of the Beast for trainer Rohan Crichton.
Out of Sound Defence, by First Defence, Sound of the Beast was bred by Peter Lawson and will race in the colors of Lawson Racing Stables.
The bay colt improved on his third-place finish going six furlongs against special weight maidens in his career debut in July to win under the same conditions by a length-and-a-quarter at five furlongs on Aug. 12, both at Gulfstream.
Sound of the Beast earned $46,400 in those two starts with jockey Edwin Gonzalez and they pair team up again Saturday to break from post four.
Looking to add to the Florida Sire Stakes legacy of Jacks or Better Farm Inc., is Northshore Drive from the Ralph Nicks barn.
Jacks or Better Farm Inc., sports a record 25 Florida Sire Stakes victories including the Dr. Fager three times with Jackson Bend (2009), Fort Loudon (2011) and Sing Praises (2014).
Northshore Drive is the most experienced in this Dr. Fager field with a win and a third from four starts including when seventh in the Proud Man.
A son of Fort Loudon out of Proof Inthe Puddin, by Elusive Bluff, Northshore Drive won a maiden special weight in his third career start over a sloppy five-and-a-half furlongs at Gulfstream on July 17.
Northshore Drive has earned $57,850 and Miguel Vasquez will ride the chestnut colt for the first time. Northshore Drive has post six.
Two Dr. Fager entrants owned by BC Racing LLC and trained by Juan Alvarado come out of the Grade 3 Sanford at Saratoga on July 15 in Dickens, who was third; and seventh-place finisher Jive.
Dickens will make his third career start in the Dr. Fager as he broke his maiden by two lengths in a four-and-a-half-furlong maiden special weight for Florida-breds at Gulfstream on June 10.
Dickens is by Ocala Stud stallion Adios Charlie out of Malibu Melody, by Malibu Moon and has earned $60,000 from his two starts. He was bred by John B. Penn and Edgard Zayas will ride from post seven.
Jive won by three-quarters of a length on debut in a five-furlong maiden special weight at Gulfstream on May 19. He is by Journeyman Stud first crop sire St Patrick’s Day out of Skylarbdancing, by Sky Mesa and was bred by Jennifer A. Johnson and Gillian K. Johnson.
Jose Morelos has the riding assignment of Jive and they will depart post two.
Completing the field for the Dr. Fager are Ninja Star with Samy Leon named to ride, Lasso and jockey Hector Diaz Jr., Raging Fury will tote Edgar Perez and Jesus Rios will be aboard Secret Lover.