HALLANDALE BEACH, FL—Defending champion and subsequent Group 1-winner Sibelius, Grade 2-winners Howbeit and Scaramouche and Florida-bred Baby Yoda are among 16 horses nominated to the $125,000 Grade 3 Mr. Prospector to be run Saturday, Dec. 23.

The Mr. Prospector, for 3-year-olds and older at seven furlongs, is one of five $125,000 stakes, two graded and three scheduled for Gulfstream’s new turf course, over Christmas weekend. Also on the Dec. 23 card are the Grade 3 Sugar Swirl for fillies and mares going six furlongs and the Tropical Park Derby for 3-year-olds and Tropical Park Oaks for 3-year-old fillies, both at nine furlongs on the grass.

Sunday’s Christmas Eve program will be headlined by the mile-and-three-eighths Via Borghese for fillies and mares, also scheduled for the turf.

Sibelius earned his second stakes win and first in graded company in last year’s Mr. Prospector, a two-and-a-quarter-length upset of 10 rivals to cap his 4-year-old season.

He began 2023 with a stakes-record performance in the $100,000 Pelican at Tampa Bay Downs when covering six furlongs in 1:08.75 before shipping to the U.A.E., where he defeated defending champion Switzerland in the Grade 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen sponsored by Nakheel on March 25 at Meydan Racecourse.

Most recently, Sibelius was fifth in the Grade 2 Phoenix won by Hoist the Gold at Keeneland on Oct. 6 for trainer Jerry O’Dwyer.

Howbeit won the Grade 2 Santa Anita Sprint Championship in October of last year but is winless this year. Claimed for $100,000 at Santa Anita out of his third start in April by trainer George Papaprodromou, Howbeit was switched to current trainer William E. Morey prior to his last race when third in a $62,500 claiming race won by Friar Laurence at Churchill Downs on Nov. 11.

Scaramouche also has yet to find the winner’s circle in 2023 after going six-for-10 last year including a half-length upset in the Grade 2 Gallant Bob at Parx Racing.

Baby Yoda looks for his first victory since taking an upper level, $80,000 optional claiming during the Belmont at Big A meet in October of last year. Most recently, the William Mott-trained son of Prospective was third behind winner Kinetic Sky in a top condition, $80,000 optional claiming at Aqueduct on Nov. 17.

Three Florida-breds are nominated to the Sugar Swirl headed by Bluefield, an eight-time winner including the $100,000 FTBOA Florida Sire Stakes City of Ocala going seven furlongs on Dec. 9 at Tampa; Magna Mesa, a daughter of Ocala Stud stallion The Big Beast who won a non-winners of two allowance at Horseshoe Indianapolis last out on Nov. 9; and multiple stakes-placed Starship Nala for trainer Steve Dwoskin.

Other Sugar Swirl nominees include Infinite Diamond, who captured the $100,000 Cash Run on Jan. 1 at Gulfstream; My Destiny, winner of 11 of 27 starts who ran second last out in the Mahoning Valley Distaff Nov. 20; and Unifying, a three-length winner of the $175,000 Leslie’s Lady on June 11 at Ellis Park in her last start.

Eighteen sophomores were nominated to the Tropical Park Derby including Amstrong, winner of the $75,000 Bear’s Den and $65,000 Showing Up on Gulfstream’s all-weather course this fall; and Grade 3 Dueling Grounds Derby-winner Anglophile.

Florida-breds nominated to the Tropical Park Derby include Bobby O, winner of the Grade 3 With Anticipation last year at Saratoga; Souper Blessing, who was second to Amstrong in the Showing Up; and First Slew, a son of Double Diamond Farm stallion First Dude trained by Steven Dye who would make his career debut.

Most popular among horsemen was the Tropical Park Oaks, which drew 23 nominations. Prominent among them are Peruvian Group 2-winner Abundancia; Accomplished Girl, winner of the Grade 2 Presque Isle Masters on synthetic in her last race on Sept. 18; stablemates Cairo Consort and Alpha Bella, respectively 1-2 in Gulfstream’s Sweetest Chant (G3) Feb. 4; and Grade 3 Pebbles-winner Implicated.

The Florida-bred nominees are Time Passage, a winner of four straight races including the $75,000 Miss Gracie on Oct. 7 and $65,000 Cellars Shiraz on Nov. 3, both over the Gulfstream all-weather course; and Coco, who was second in the Cellars Shiraz and fourth in the Miss Gracie.

Coco is also nominated to the Via Borghese as is Florida-bred Sister Otoole, a daughter of Pleasant Acres Stallions’ Amira’s Prince (Ire) who won the $100,000 CTT and TOC in 2022 and 2023 at Del Mar.

Other Via Borghese nominees include Romagna Mia (GB), winner of the Grade 3 Dowager at Keeneland in her most recent start on Oct. 22; Star Fortress (Ire) winner of the Grade 3 Cardinal at Churchill on Nov. 23: and Sand and Sea, a winner of two straight including the Dec. 3 Orange Blossom overnight handicap at Gulfstream.

Return to the December 15 issue of Wire to Wire