When Edward Seltzer’s Field Commission starts in the $75,000 Ponche Handicap on Saturday, the 7-year-old son of Service Stripe will face two significant challenges as the race will be Field Commission’s first outing since November 2010, a layoff of nearly 19 months, and his first career start over a dirt track.
“He’s had some setbacks, but he is almost a millionaire and we want to get him past that mark,” trainer Curtis Garrison said of Field Commission, who boasts a bankroll of $987,266. “He’s training great, and if he takes to the dirt, I think we can have some fun with him this year.”
In 28 lifetime starts, including 14 appearances in graded stakes and victories in the Grade 2 Nearctic and Grade 3 Vigil Stakes, Field Commission has yet to compete over a dirt course, with all of his starts coming on Woodbine’s Polytrack or turf course. In fact, the horse didn’t record his first dirt workout until March of this year at Seltzer’s Solera Farm near Ocala.
“The surface at the farm is a little cuppy, but it’s not all that different than the surface down here,” Garrison said. “And he’s done really well training there; he gets over it with no problems. So we’re hopeful. The distance of the race might be a bit too short for him, but he is coming up to the race in great shape.”
With rain in the forecast for Saturday, as it is nearly every day during late spring and summer in south Florida, Garrison must consider the prospects of a wet track for Field Commission’s dirt debut.
“If there is a lot of moisture in the surface, I think it could play a little more like Polytrack, and that would be good for him,” Garrison said. “But a fast track would also be good. The one thing I don’t want to see is some rain early and then a drying out track at race time.”
GONZALES ESCAPES INJURY; TO RETURN SATURDAY
For the second time in the last three weeks, apprentice rider Jonathan Gonzales escaped a frightening fall with minor injuries and will return to the Calder jockey’s room on Saturday to honor his Summit Preview Day riding assignments.
“It looked bad,” Gonzales’ agent Marcelo Castro said of the fifth-race fall from trainer David Brownlee’s Buzz the Deputy. “But he really just had the wind knocked out of him. He’s got a swollen lip and some bruising, but that’s about it. He was out of the hospital before the ninth race at Calder was run.”
Brownlee was at the hospital with Gonzales and stayed with the rider until he was discharged.
“That meant a lot,” Castro said. “David nearly beat the ambulance to the hospital and was with him until he got released. I thought that showed real class.”
Gonzales took off all his mounts on Friday and is scheduled to ride Saturday’s Summit Preview Day at Calder.
“He wanted to ride today, but his lip was still swollen, so I advised him to take the day off,” Castro said. “I said it the last time he fell, the kid is tough. He’s lucky, that’s for sure, but he is also very tough.”
On May 18, Gonzales fell when his mount Lil John Paul stumbled badly in that day’s 11th race. The rider was also unharmed in that incident.
STEEL MAN TO SCRATCH FROM UNBRIDLED
Trainer Freddie Hyatt arrived at the Calder stable office Friday morning with a horse trailer in tow, although prospective Unbridled Stakes starter Steel Man was not on the van.
“Just yesterday, he stepped on a nail,” the trainer and former Auburn football star said. “This is a tough game, isn’t it?”
With the defection of Steel Man, the Unbridled Stakes will start just six, with Fort Loudon and Bahamian Squall the likely favorites.