Vinceremos: Athletic, Within Himself and Facing Tough Company
By Dick Downey
Randy Gullatt, a Thoroughbred trainer for eight years, picked Vinceremos out at last year’s Keeneland April Sale of 2-Year-Olds in training for Twin Creeks Racing Stables, and they paid $340,000 for him.
“I thought he was a very athletic horse that worked well within himself, and I loved his fluid movement and his walk. The more I watched him, the more I liked him,” Gullatt said.
Gullatt had no problem convincing his close friend Elliott Walden of WinStar Farm, to acquire a 50 percent share. “Elliott and I look at horses on our own and compare notes, and when we are on the same page, a lot of times we decide to partner,” Gullatt said. “Every time we paid attention to Vinceremos, he did well, so we went after it.”
After spending the summer at WinStar in Versailles, Ky., and overcoming a minor setback, Vinceremos was sent to Todd Pletcher, who saddled him for a runner-up effort in his career debut on Nov. 30 in a maiden special weight, six-furlong race at Gulfstream.
Vinceremos won his next two races – a one-mile maiden special weight at Gulfstream Park and the Sam F. Davis Stakes. After dropping back on the second turn of the Davis, he rallied under Edgar Prado but started waiting on horses and hung on to win by a nose over stable mate Harpoon.
Surfing U S A, also trained by Pletcher, is the 3-1 morning-line favorite, followed by the Mark Casse-trained Conquest Titan at 7-2 and Vinceremos at 4-1.
“Todd has a lot of horses he has to manage, and he does an outstanding job working for each individual owner. We wouldn’t want him to take an opportunity away from Surfing U S A and that ownership group,” Gullatt said. “He has obviously earned his chance and it wouldn’t be fair for us to deprive him of that. When Saturday gets here, that’s when you have to let the horses do the talking.”
Pletcher said that the Tampa Bay Derby – which he won last year with Verrazano and in 2004 with Limehouse – is an ideal spot for Surfing U S A to prove his mettle.
After breaking his maiden at Aqueduct in a seven-furlong race on Nov. 30, Surfing U S A finished second to leading Kentucky Derby contender Top Billing in an allowance going the Tampa Bay Derby distance at Gulfstream on Jan. 25.
“He has run well in all three of his starts, and he finished second last time after getting in a speed duel early,” Pletcher said. “I think he fits into the mix very well, and he is a quality horse who is continuing to improve.”
“Any time you structure a bonus around winning the Kentucky Derby, you have to get lucky in a lot of ways,” Pletcher said of a $1 million bonus the track is offering toownership of any horse that can win the Davis, Tampa Bay Derby and Kentucky Derby. “We try to do what we think is best for each horse. You would expect the Tampa Bay Derby to be tougher (than the Sam F. Davis), so they all need to improve to have a chance.
“Vinceremos is doing well and everything has gone according to plan since the Davis. Whether he has improved enough to win, we’ll find out Saturday.”
Back for another shot at Vinceremos are the third and fourth-place Sam F. Davis finishers, the Chad Brown-trained Cousin Stephen and the Mark Casse-trained Matador.
Cousin Stephen will receive the services of Javier Castellano, the reigning Eclipse Award-winning jockey and current runaway leader in the Gulfstream Park standings. While he is only 1-for-4, Cousin Stephen was beaten less than a length by Vinceremos in the Sam F. Davis and has been training superbly at Palm Meadows Training Center base for his return.
“I thought he handled the Tampa Bay Downs track well last time, so we figured it was logical to go back and try again,” Brown said.
Prado – who won the 2005 Tampa Bay Derby on Sun King – will return to ride Vinceremos, leading a strong out-of-town riding contingent that also includes Javier Castellano, Julien Leparoux and Jose Lezcano.
Only four locally-based jockeys have won the Tampa Bay Derby in its past 20 runnings: Luis Garcia on Watch Me Go in 2011, Daniel Centeno on Musket Man in 2009, Lezcano on Deputy Glitters when he was leading jockey at the track in 2006, and Jorge Guerra on Thundering Storm in 1996.