Daaher, Brass Hat & A.P. Arrow Clash in Donn Handicap Saturday
Shadwell Stable's emerging 4-year-old star Daaher is a Grade I winner who faces his biggest challenge yet in Saturday's $500,000 Donn Handicap (G1) at Gulfstream Park. Among his eight rivals is Fred Bradley's 7-year-old gelding Brass Hat, winner of the race in 2006.
The 50th edition of the 1 1/8 miles fixture, Florida's most prestigious test for older horses on the maintrack, is the centerpiece of Saturday's 10-race program that also will include the $150,000 Swale Stakes(G2) for 3-year-olds at 6½ furlongs.
Regular jockey Mike Luzzi will fly in from New York for the mount on Daaher for trainer the Kiaran McLaughlin as the son of Awesome Again makes his first start since capturing the Cigar Mile (G1) at Aqueduct on Nov. 24, his third straight impressive victory and fourth win in seven career starts.
McLaughlin and Shadwell teamed up to capture a memorable renewal of the Donn last year with 2006 Horse of the Year Invasor, who went on to capture the Dubai World Cup (G1) in late March, a race that would prove to be his career finale. Daaher is expected to be Dubai-bound for this year's World Cup with a good effort in the Donn.
Brass Hat is on the comeback trail for trainer Buff Bradley, the owner-breeder's son, and is set to make his first start since a very good runner-up effort in the Clark Handicap (G2) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 23. Regular rider Willie Martinez will be along for the ride.
A son of Prized, Brass Hat made the long trip to Dubai after his Donn victory in 2006, finishing second to Electrocutionist in the World Cup, but was later disqualified from the purse on a controversial medication ruling. Even without that rich prize money, he has won nearly $1.7 million with a 21-8-5-0 record.
Scoring by a half-length over Brass Hat in the Clark was Allen Paulson Living Trust's 6-year-old Kentucky homebred A.P. Arrow, who will get plenty of support again in the Donn with jockey Ramon Dominguez flying in for the mount in his first start since the Churchill race. Trainer Todd Pletcher sends out both A.P. Arrow and Team Valor's 5-year-old Fairbanks with John R. Velazquez in the saddle.
Two other intriguing prospects in the field of nine are Midnight Cry Stable's 6-year-old Brazilian-bred Einstein, a Grade I winner on turf, and J. Paul Reddam and WinStar Farm's 5-year-old Spring At Last, winner of the Godolphin Mile (G2) in Dubai last year, who shipped in from California for the Donn.
Edgar Prado rides Einstein for trainer Helen Pitts after an impressive allowance victory on turf here on Jan. 11 in his first start since an unfortunate experience in the Dixie Stakes (G2) at Pimlico on Preakness Day in May when he lost his rider while attempting to avoid a fallen rival in front of him.
Einstein scored his biggest career victory in the 2006 Gulfstream Breeders' Cup Turf (G1), but has won two of three starts on the main track during his 14-race career. The son of 1985 Kentucky Derby (G1) hero Spend a Buck won an allowance race by seven lengths over the Gulfstream main track in his race before the Gulfstream Turf score.
Jockey Eibar Coa gets the call on Spring At Last for trainer Doug O'Neill as he makes his second start since winning the Godolphin Mile on Dubai World Cup Day on Mar. 31 by 2¾ lengths. The son of Silver Deputy won a one-mile allowance on turf at Santa Anita on Dec. 26 in his return to competition this winter.
Completing a deep and talented field are Irving and Marje Cowan's Wood Be Willing, Jose Lezcano; Zayat Stables' Dr. Googles Boogles, Kent Desormeaux; and Amy Tarrant's Kiss the Kid, Eddie Castro.