Taghleeb – showing winning the Remington Green Stakes at Remington Park – is one of two runners for trainer Mike Maker in Saturday’s H. Allen Jerkens Stakes
Trainer Archibald Kingsley Jr. is viewing Saturday’s $ 100,000 H. Allen Jerkens Stakes at Gulfstream Park in a manner that would have gained the approval of the race’s namesake.
Jerkens, the Hall of Fame trainer who passed away at the age of 85 in 2015, was very bullish on striking when the iron was hot. If a horse was showing Jerkens all the right signs, the trainer would seize the opportunity and run him.
Kingsley is of the same mind. Initially he was content to put Mrs. George M. Sensor’s Top Striker away for the year after the 7-year-old won the 2 3/4-mile Colonial Cup (G1) by 10 lengths over hurdles in South Carolina last month. But the conditioner had a change of heart when he saw the two-mile H. Allen Jerkens, a turf race for 3-year-olds and up, on Gulfstream Park’s Championship Meet schedule.
“The horse is training really well and is in great form, and I know that he gets the distance,” Kingsley said Wednesday morning while en route to South Florida in a horse van with Top Striker. “This is the race that fits . . . so why wouldn’t we run? Just like Allen Jerkens would have said, ‘When they are right, you’ve got to run them.’
Kingsley, a former steeplechase rider, brought Top Striker back to the races in 2016 from a tendon injury that had sidelined the gelding for nearly a year and a half. With each subsequent start this season, Top Striker began to round back in form. In his last four races, each over jumps, he won the Colonial Cup and the David L. Zeke Ferguson Memorial Hurdle Stakes (G2), and was second in back-to-back handicap races at Saratoga Race Course.
The H. Allen Jerkens will mark Top Striker’s first flat start since finishing seventh in a 1 1/16-mile turf race at Laurel Park in July. He owns two wins on the flat. One of those victories came at Gulfstream Park in 2013 in a mile turf race for his former connections.
Kingsley said the pace will dictate where Top Striker, who drew the rail and jockey Jose Lezcano, will be positioned in the early running.
“That will entirely fall to Lezcano and the horse,” Kingsley said. “If they go really slow, I would like to see him close. If they go the half in :47, and he’s five or six lengths off of it that would be fine. If they run honest fractions, I think he can run just about anywhere in the field. If there is no pace, he can make pace if he needs to.”
A field of 14 entered the third running of the H. Allen Jerkens. Among the entrants are a duo from the barn of trainer Mike Maker, Generous Kitten and Taghleeb.
Generous Kitten, a 5-year-old son of Kitten’s Joy who races for his breeders, Ken and Sarah Ramsey, seeks the first stakes win of his career.
Generous Kitten nearly earned the designation of stakes winner in September in Maryland when he finished second to Renown in the Laurel Turf Cup. Facing that same rival again in the Sycamore (G3) at Keeneland, five weeks later, Generous Kitten finished eighth, while Renown again got the victory.
“The turf [at Keeneland] was too soft for Generous Kitten; he didn’t handle it all,” Maker said. “At Laurel, it took him a while to get out and when he did he made a nice run at the end and I thought was much the best.”
Maker said he doesn’t anticipate the two miles to be a stumbling block for either of his horses, particularly Taghleeb, a 5-year-old son of Hard Spun who was beaten a length while finishing fourth in his last start, the nine-furlong River City Handicap (G3) at Churchill Downs in November. In his start prior to that, the Michael Hui-owned Taghleeb was beaten 3 1/4 lengths while finishing seventh in the 1 1/2-mile Pattison Canadian International (G1) at Woodbine. He was 56-1 that day.
“Taghleeb ran well in the Pattison and it still looks like he wants more ground, so it will be very interesting to see him run here,” Maker said. “The Pattinson was a tough field, but there was no pace, and he lost a lot of ground on the turn, and got beat three lengths. It was pretty credible. At Churchill, he was just outrun, and it was probably shorter than he wanted.”
Julien Leparoux is named to ride Generous Kitten, who drew post 10. Taghleeb has Tyler Gaffalione in the saddle and will leave from post 3.
English Illusion is a runner who relishes a distance of ground, and enters Saturday’s marathon with wins this year at 10 and 12 furlongs. Made in Detroit made nearly all the pace in an 11-furlong turf race at Aqueduct last month before yielding late and finishing third, beaten 1 1/2 lengths. Montclair exits that same race, where he finished second after kicking on late.
The field is completed by Snag, Indebted, Good and Proper, Applicator Hunter O’Riley, Quiet Force, Spanish Squeeze and Tobias.
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