By Mike Farrell
A Thread of Blue is clearly a horse for the course with a perfect 3-for-3 mark over the Gulfstream Park lawn.
The 4-year-old will put that local unbeaten mark on the line Saturday as the solid favorite in the $100,000 Tropical Turf Stakes (G3).
Depending on how things shake out, A Thread of Blue could also be a horse on course for the track’s richest grass race: the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) in two weeks.
Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, A Thread of Blue is on the also-eligible list for the World Cup Turf. Gulfstream extended invitations to 12 runners, a stellar lineup that includes eight Grade 1 winners.
A Thread of Blue would need some defections from the invited lineup, and a bang-up performance in the one-mile Tropical Turf, to move into the World Cup Turf picture. It’s certainly not out of the question for the winner of last summer’s $1 million Saratoga Derby Invitational.
This is A Thread of Blue’s first race since finishing second in the Hill Prince (G2) in October at Belmont Park.
Nothing has aligned correctly since then.
McLaughlin targeted the Hollywood Derby (G1) at Del Mar but those plans were scrapped due to wet conditions and schedule change.
He was then pointed toward the Tropical Park Derby before more wet weather and a poor draw (post 14) kept him in the barn once again.
Gambling on a World Cup Turf berth was a considered option before McLaughlin settled on this spot.
“This race Saturday suits us a little better so we’re going to do that,” McLaughlin said.
The front-running colt needs a firm course. He could get his preferred footing, if the latest forecasts hold.
A Thread of Blue has been training alertly up the road at Palm Meadows and kicks off his season on the course where he won three times last year including the Palm Beach Stakes (G3).
Once again, Luis Saez will be aboard the horse who loves to dictate the pace.
“He does not have to be on the lead but he seems to be there more often than not,” McLaughlin said.
A Thread of Blue could have company up front.
Maraud, Gidu, Tusk and Gemonteer all do their best work on, or very close to the lead.
For players angling for an off-the-pace candidate, Exulting could fill the bill. The former McLaughlin trainee now in the Mike Maker barn missed by only 2 ¼ lengths most recently here in the Fort Lauderdale Stakes (G2).
The 11-race card also features distaff turfers in the $150,000 Marshua’s River Stakes (G3).
The Don Alberto Stable has a pair of uncoupled runners from different barns for the 1 1/16 mile contest. Andina Del Sur, trained by Tom Albertrani, is the veteran of the duo at age 5. She is still looking her first local grass win with a record of 0-1-3 in five starts here but was a stakes winner last year in New York and New Jersey.
Magic Star, the other Don Alberto runner, just turned 3 and will be making only her third start, and her stakes debut, for Chad Brown.