Every spring, the Triple Crown season serves as an exciting time for owners, and the preparations for the series are already underway at Calder Casino & Race Course.
“We’re excited,” said owner Stephen Screnci. “I look at baby horses almost like opening up presents; as you rip the paper a little bit and a little bit to see more and more. That’s really what it’s like.”
While a slew of Calder-based horsemen are planning on running their Triple Crown nominated horses in the 1 1/16-mile Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park on February 22, other horsemen such as Screnci are looking at other major prep races in Florida as well as allowance prep races for their nominees. Screnci has his 3-year-old colt Kulboyz nominated for the Fountain of Youth but will most likely opt for the 7-furlong Grade III Swale Stakes at Gulfstream on March 1.
“The Swale is probably a better fit for him because he has only run ¾,” said Screnci. “I think the swale being 7/8 would probably be the next step. We took our time with him as a baby; we didn’t really press him. He’s a May foal, so I think he’ll get a mile. I don’t know about 1 1/6 mile or 1 1/8 mile, but we’ll have to see.”
Trained by Angel Rodriguez, Kulboyz has made just one career appearance so far, but went straight to the winner’s circle as he captured a 6-furlong maiden special weight race at Gulfstream on January 23 by 2 ½ lengths.
“He broke his maiden at Gulfstream and he ran a very impressive race,” said Screnci. “That was on January 23 and the early nominations closed on the 25th, so I figured I should nominate him. He has a pretty cool personality. He’s still a little bit of a baby, even in the walking ring he was whinnying a little bit before the race. That’s what I like about him, his innocence.”
Trainer Efren Loza, Jr. is looking across the coast toward the 1 1/16-mile Grade II Tampa Bay Derby on March 8 for his 3-year-old colt Giancarlo’s next stakes appearance. The Derby offers up to 50 points towards eligibility for the Kentucky Derby. Owned by St. George Stable LLC, Giancarlo will first run in a 7-furlong condition race Loza said.
Giancarlo finished third in the 7-furlong Pasco Stakes at Tampa in his 3-year-old debut on January 4 before coming in second in a 7-furlong allowance at Calder on January 17. After finishing second in his 2-year-old career debut at Calder, Giancarlo broke his maiden at Calder to close out his 2-year-old season.
“Giancarlo ran good, broke the maiden good with a good Beyer and then ran a stake at Tampa and didn’t run too bad,” said Loza. “After these races we gave him another chance here at Calder and some problems presented in the race. He’s a good horse, always works good and looks good.”
Another Triple Crown nominee for Loza is Gone as Wind, a 3-year-old colt who is also owned by St. George Stable LLC. He broke his maiden at Calder first time out as a 2-year-old before coming in third at Gulfstream in an allowance optional claimer. In his 3-year-old debut in the 1-mile Gulfstream Park Derby on January 1, he finished seventh.
“He didn’t break good from the gate,” said Loza of Gone as Wind’s stakes debut. “He didn’t start well but then the jockey put him behind the pace very quickly. He had one race at Gulfstream and didn’t run too bad and broke his maiden here which is very good.”
Gone as Wind is entered in a 1-mile allowance at Calder on Friday. Loza said that Gone as Wind could next run in the 1-mile $75,000 Smooth Air Stakes at Calder on March 2 and the Derby at Tampa is also a possibility.
“I think the horse has a lot of chance to go to the distance and he is working very good,” said Loza. “I like this horse.”
Also entered for Friday’s allowance is the 3-year-old colt Allstar. He has made only one appearance so far with owner Crossed Sabres Farm and trainer Marcus Vitali, who claimed the horse on January 4 at Gulfstream from a 1-mile maiden claiming race on the turf where he finished second.
“He has been training good,” said Vitali. “I’ve only ran the horse once. He’s shown me a little promise; I don’t know if he’s that kind of horse but we figured nominate and then we’ll be ready if he rises to the opportunity.”
Allstar broke his maiden at Calder on January 17 in a 1-mile off-the-turf maiden special weight race in his first start for the connections after he was claimed.
“Leading up to the race I just saw he had a little quality in him,” said Vitali. “I liked everything about him. I just figured that he’s a little bit versatile, and that’s what I like about the horse.”
In his only other lifetime start, Allstar finished fourth in his only race as a 2-year-old, which came on the turf at Tampa.
“The breeding suggests that he can run dirt or turf, so I didn’t have any doubt in my mind that he would handle the surface,” said Vitali.
Vitali said the allowance race will help him to see where Allstar is at and then he will decide on his next race from there.