BY STEVE KOCH
A pair of $100,000 turf sprints highlight the 2023 year-ender card at Gulfstream this Sunday, providing two final chances for Florida-breds to scoop the lucrative $25,000 FTBOA Stakes Win Bonus.
The $25,000 Florida-breds in stakes Win incentive expires with 2023 to make way for FTBOA’s enhanced win-place-show stakes bonuses in 2024.
The Abundantia goes as race eight for an oversubscribed field of three-and-up fillies and mares at five furlongs. The Janus, likewise at five furlongs for the three-and-ups, attracts 10 colts and geldings looking to close out the calendar with a score.
A maximum twelve runners in the gate with three on the also-eligibles, including five Florida-breds, should attract generous wagering in the Abundantia.
The best foot forward of the Abundantia Florida-breds looks to be Baby Steps (15-1 morning line) seeking to relaunch off a length-and-three-quarters overnight handicap score sprinting on the Gulfstream synthetic on Sept. 30. Baby Steps, trained by Jorge Delgado and carrying Javier Castellano, springs from post four.
Baby Steps will need to best salty contenders that include the 8-5 morning line favorite Twilight Gleaming (Ire), winner of the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2) but far more recently settling for fourth in the Grade 2 Franklin at Keeneland on Oct. 15; Lady Milagro, last-out winner of the $150,000 Autumn Days, a turf sprint stakes at Aqueduct; Florida-bred Stone Silent, a recent transfer to the Brian Lynch shedrow off a third in a $141,000 Churchill Downs allowance on Nov. 3 and a second-place three starts back in the Galway Stakes at Saratoga; morning line second-favorite Accomplished Girl (9-2), winner of the Presque Isle Downs Masters (G2) in September; or Choose Joy who conquered an allowance optional claiming last outing at Gulfstream on Dec. 3.
Five Florida-breds in the Janus Stakes field of ten intend to wrap up the year with a win-photo and the extra FTBOA paycheck in race ten.
Golden Kernel Racing Stable puts forth two Florida-bred contenders, both trained by Laura Cazares, with Panther Island (12-1 morning line), returning off a half-length win in a Dec. 10 starter allowance and Yes I Am Free (5-2 morning line favorite) posting a last-out second-place stat in a Dec 1 allowance optional claiming on the Gulfstream.
Further setting the bar for the FTBOA check-seekers, Warrior’s Pride (15-1) seeks a repeat takedown of the FTBOA win bonus, having won two races back in the July 2 Bob Umphrey Sprint Stakes on the Gulfstream synthetic.
Extendo (30-1) and Biz Biz Buzz (6-1) round out the Florida-bred contingent in the Janus. Trainer Joe Orseno’s Extendo, bred by Helen Barbazon, Joseph Barbazon and Edward Seltzer will need to dig in off his third-place on the Gulfstream synthetic in a Dec. 1 starter allowance. Biz Biz Buzz put up back-to-back turf sprint scores at Monmouth this summer but his most recent outing landed a seventh in a Keeneland October allowance.
Not to be dismissed amongst the open contenders, Dale Romans Coppola (10-1) under Martin Garcia will fire from the two-hole. Coppola scored by a length-and-a-half in a $148,000 Churchill Downs allowance on Nov. 12. He struggled with an eighth in the Grade 2 Woodford during the Keeneland October meet, but had prior cashed another lucrative paycheck in a $141,000 allowance optional claiming, also at Churchill Downs. However, Eamonn in post nine holds morning line preference at 3-1 acknowledging his four-times tilting at stakes company with a most recent win being three races back in August at Monmouth in the Select Stakes, another turf sprint. His more recent eighth on Oct. 7 might be forgiven, having been in a sloppy, off-the-turf, conditions going 6 furlongs in the Belmont Turf Sprint Stakes at Aqueduct.
Return to the Dec. 29 issue of Wire to Wire