The Tropical Turf H. (G3) and My Charmer H. (G3) – traditional South Florida turf stakes run at Calder in past years – are the featured events at Gulfstream Park West on Saturday. Each race is worth $100,000 and sends runners 1 1/16 miles over Gulfstream’s grass course.
The usual cast of turf hopefuls has shown up for the contests. Eleven, including one main-track only entrant, stars in the My Charmer while 12, plus three main-track only runners, passed the entry-box for the Tropical Turf.
The two most recognizable names in the latter event are Lochte and Kharafa, while the My Charmer features both Sandiva and Lady Lara.
Lochte is a Grade 1 winner over the course, having taken the Gulfstream Park Turf H. (G1) while making his stakes debut in 2014. The Medaglia d’Oro gelding has found success in four other stakes, including the Tampa Bay S. (G3) earlier this season, and placed in such quality events as the Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1) and Maker’s 46 Mile (G1).
Lochte was last seen scoring easy back-to-back turf victories at Gulfstream in the Mr. Steele S. and Spider John S. Matthew Rispoli has been aboard for the five-year-old’s past three starts and retains the mount on Saturday.
“He’s on his game right now,” trainer Marcus Vitali said. “I think he’s turned the corner for the better. He’s definitely improving every day.
“The horse has won a Grade 1; I don’t see any reason why he can’t compete with this field. But, it’s a horse race and you’ve got to wish for everybody that their horse comes into the race right and they all run well. I just hope mine runs the best.”
Kharafa has been in the top three for all but one of his last 12 races, including five wins. The gelded son of Kitalpha will be trying Gulfstream Park’s turf for only the third time and is, in fact, making only his sixth time outside of New York from 31 career starts.
“We kind of penciled this race in. If he was doing well, we were going to go for it and then he’ll get the winter off,” trainer Tim Hills explained. “He’s six turning seven, but he’s a very sound horse. He’s fit and ready to go.”
Kharafa has spent the majority of his career running against fellow New York-breds, and gets the services of Edgar Prado as he takes this foray into open company once again.
“We’ve gotten so much rain lately the turf will probably have a lot of give in it, which he really likes,” Hills added.
The Tropical Turf also features Argentinean Group 3 winner Take the Stand as well as the Grade 2-placed duo of Inchcape and All Included.
Two races before the Tropical Turf, Sandiva will line up in the My Charmer for trainer Todd Pletcher. The four-year-old chestnut is already winner of the Suwannee River S. (G3) and Tropical Park Oaks over the course and will seek a turf stakes hat trick with Javier Castellano holding the reins.
“She’s training really, really well. She’s always been a filly that is very good in the mornings. I’m hoping because of that that she would run well off the bench,” said Pletcher, whose trainee has a solid series of five workouts at Palm Beach Downs in preparation for the My Charmer.
“She’s been away a for a little while, but she’s training as sharply as she did last winter at Palm Beach Downs when she was on the good run. All indications are she’s coming back in good form. Hopefully, she’ll run a good race.”
Sandiva closed out 2014 and opened 2015 with the aforementioned stakes scores, but hasn’t competed since finishing a close fifth in the Just a Game S. (G1) at Belmont Park on June 6. While a win is everyone’s goal, her connections could be hoping for something bigger and better down the road.
“She just needed a little bit of a break. She had a pretty steady campaign,” Pletcher explained the layoff. “We talked about it with Brad Weisbord, the racing manager for (owner) Al Shaqab, and Harry Herbert, the international racing manager, and we decided that she had had a steady campaign and the hope was that she could stay in training in 2016 by giving her a break in the summer, when she wasn’t quite in as sharp form as she was in the winter.
“We know she likes Gulfstream. With this race under her belt, it should set her up for a productive Gulfstream meet.”
Lady Lara was also in the Just a Game, running fourth by only 1 3/4 lengths that day, but has since been sixth in the Diana S. (G1), a half-length second in the Noble Damsel S. (G3) and a fast-closing third in the Athenia S. (G3). Jose Lezcano has the call on the Bill Mott-trained four-year-old lass.
Kitten’s Dumplings and Lori’s Store, the respective first and third in the Little Miss Magic S. over course and distance last out, are also entered in the My Charmer.
Photo 1 – Lochte (Adam Coglianese Photography)
Photo 2 – Kharafa (NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)
Photo 3 – Sandiva (Leslie Martin/Adam Coglianese Photography)
Photo 4 – Lady Lara (Leslie Martin/Adam Coglianese Photography)