For seven years since Imawildandcrazyguy ran fourth in the Kentucky Derby and sixth in the Belmont Stakes, trainer Bill Kaplan has eyed a return to the Triple Crown trail. Now he has two possibilities.
Maybe this year will be his chance. Kaplan, 68, has Florida-breds East Hall in the Fountain of Youth and We’re All Set in an important Saturday allowance race at Gulfstream Park.
East Hall drew the extreme outside in the 13-horse Fountain of Youth. He is winless in four starts, but never beaten by more than 2 1/2 lengths, since breaking his maiden at the track on Oct. 19. East Hall was third by 2 1/4 lengths to General a Rod and Wildcat Red in the Gulfstream Park Derby on Jan. 1, and closed to be third by a neck in the OBS Championship Stakes in Ocala on Jan. 21.
“We think he’s a very high-caliber horse,” Kaplan said. “The race we gave him up at OBS, he was very much the best. He was five wide both turns and was still coming at the end, and only got beat a neck for everything. He’s a very nice horse, and we do want to test him against the top 3-year-olds. I’m very high on East Hall’s ability. I think he deserves a shot on the Triple Crown trail.”
We’re All Set drew post five in race six, where eight of the 10 horses entered are Triple Crown nominated. Among the 3-year-olds with Derby aspirations are Tonalist, impressive Gulfstream maiden winner; grade II-placed Wicked Strong, off the board in the Holy Bull; Mexicoma, sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile; and Todd Pletcher-trained maiden winners Constitution and Matterhorn.
“That’s what you expect here at Gulfstream in the championship meet, because these big guys from up north don’t bring down their bums,” Kaplan said. “They bring down their top 3-year-olds, and they’re all trying to get into that Triple Crown picture. I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy spot, but it’s a good spot for a good test on him.
Owned by Ione and Herbert Elkins, We’re All Set has made one start this year, finishing third behind Top Billing in an 8 1/2-furlong allowance at Gulfstream on Jan. 25. We’re All Set was second to Wildcat Red in a 6 1/2-furlong maiden sprint in the fall and third in Calder’s In Reality Stakes to Best Plan Yet, also headed for the Fountain of Youth.
“We’re All Set is a specimen,” Kaplan said. “He’s one of the biggest and most attractive horses I’ve ever had. He’s developing nicely and this is another step toward that. He has to improve a little bit, but if he does, he’ll show very well in this race I think.
“He’s got a huge stride on him,” the trainer said. “He’s a very big horse, and he’s going to get better as he gets older. I’m trying to get him to the point where I feel comfortable trying him in the classic races. Hopefully, he’ll move forward with this one. If he wins this one, then you’ll probably see him in the Florida Derby. But, he’ll have to win this race.”
Edited Gulfstream Park release with additional content by Dick Downey