Divisidero Could Start Big Season in Ft. Lauderdale

By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman

While there aren't any Kentucky Derby prep races scheduled for this Saturday, there's nevertheless an intriguing set of races on the agenda, including three graded stakes races at Gulfstream Park. The $200,000 Ft. Lauderdale Stakes (gr. II) has drawn a particularly deep and competitive field, with plenty of talented horses to choose from. Let's start handicapping!

Ft. Lauderdale Stakes (gr. II)

The horse to beat in this 8.5-furlong turf race is probably Heart to Heart, a remarkably consistent front-runner that has compiled an 11-for-25 record with seven graded stakes wins, including the 2016 renewal of this race. He's 3-for-3 at Gulfstream Park and has repeatedly proven to be a tough horse to catch, but his recent win in the El Prado Stakes wasn't quite as sharp as some of his past runs, and he was beaten fairly and squarely when fourth in the Artie Schiller Stakes two starts back.

I get the feeling that Divisidero will be a popular horse to play against while returning from a seven-month layoff, so this might be a chance to get a good price on a horse that I believe could be a huge player in the turf division this year. Two years ago, he was sensational in his debut at Gulfstream Park, exploding from the back of the pack to win by a half-length at 25-1. He's picked up a couple of graded stakes wins since then, including the 2016 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (gr. I) at Churchill Downs, and while he's gone 0-for-3 at Gulfstream since his debut, those three losses were all graded stakes races in which he received difficult trips.

In his most recent race, Divisidero finished fifth with yet another tough setup in the ten-furlong Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap (gr. I). Forced to race much closer to the lead than usual due to a slow pace, Divisidero couldn't quite outkick the likes of Flintshire and Ironicus, but was beaten just 2 ¾ lengths for victory (and just a length for second) while running his final quarter-mile in :22.16 according to Trakus. Given that he also raced wide and covered substantially more ground than the horses that finished ahead of him, this was an excellent effort.

Divisidero came out of the Manhattan with bone bruising, but has trained very well for his return, most notably breezing five furlongs in :59 flat on January 1st at Gulfstream. According to reports, Divisidero is better than ever coming into the Ft. Lauderdale Stakes, and with anything resembling a good setup I think he'll be tough to beat.

There are plenty of other live contenders in this race as well, with Night Prowler being particularly intriguing at 8-1 on the morning line. Racing for the powerful team of trainer Chad Brown and jockey Javier Castellano, Night Prowler was a two-time graded stakes winner as a three-year-old in 2015 and showed improvement during a short three-race campaign in 2016, with a Belmont allowance win and a solid third in the Artie Schiller Stakes being among the highlights.

Drawing post position two could potentially lead to a tough trip along the inside, but if Castellano can find an opening in the homestretch, Night Prowler has the talent to be a player in the exotics and it would come as no surprise to see him win.

Now it's your turn! Who do you like in the Ft. Lauderdale Stakes?

An Emotional Win for the Wizard

The 2017 Dubai World Cup Carnival continued with an eight-race card at Meydan today, with the highlight being a remarkable victory in the Dubawi Stakes by the ageless Reynaldothewizard. The son of Speightstown was winning the race for the third year in a row, but what made this triumph so amazing wasn't the way he did it--it was the fact that he did it at the unimaginable age of eleven years old.

Looking back, it's almost impossible to comprehend how long Reynaldothewizard has been racing. He placed in a graded stakes at Saratoga way back in 2008, the same year that he finished behind Square Eddie and Pioneerof the Nile in the Breeders' Futurity (gr. I) at Keeneland. Imagine that--Reynaldothewizard is the same age as Pioneerof the Nile, who has already sired a Triple Crown winner and is old enough to be a grandsire in some pedigrees!

In the Dubawi Stakes, Reynaldothewizard settled in third place as the talented Muarreb set the pace, then began to rally as the field turned for home. It took almost every bit of Meydan's long homestretch for "the Wizard" to close the gap, but just like so many times in the past, he got the job done in a thrilling finish. If you like to watch amazing horses defy Father Time, I guarantee that you will get emotional watching the replay.

Gormley or American Anthem?

Following a terrific photo finish between the three-year-olds Gormley and American Anthem in the Sham Stakes (gr. III) last Saturday, there's been a lot of debate regarding which colt will be best going forward. Personally, I was impressed with the efforts of both horses, who dueled for the lead through quick fractions before pulling away to leave their rivals thirteen lengths behind. I think both have bright future, but I might prefer Gormley by the slightest of margins. While it's true that American Anthem was making his two-turn debut (and only the second start of his career), he saved more ground than Gormley while carrying five pounds less weight and was still beaten a nose despite opening up on Gormley at the eighth pole.

Gormley is now 3-for-4 with his lone loss coming in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I), where he received a tough trip racing wide and making an early move to reach contention. He had gotten easy leads in his previous two races, but showed in the Sham that he can be effective while racing just off the lead, which will be a valuable trait going forward. I get the feeling that Gormley has been winning on raw talent and still has a lot of room for improvement, but his Sham effort seemed like a nice step toward becoming a more experienced and professional racehorse. I'm looking forward to seeing how he progresses in the future!


The Unlocking Winners Road to the Kentucky Derby Handicapping Challenge is back for a third consecutive year! Please be sure to post all entries, prime horses, and stable additions on the official contest page. Thanks, and enjoy the racing!


J. Keeler Johnson (also known as "Keelerman") is a writer, blogger, videographer, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He is the founder of the horse racing website www.theturfboard.com.

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