HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. -- Two of last year's three Triple Crown winners, Shackleford and Ruler On Ice, will square off for the first time since the Travers when an outstanding field of 11 older handicap horses go 1 1/8 miles in Saturday's $500,000 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park.
The Donn is one of two Grade 1 races on the card that was drawn Wednesday, along with the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap, but there is little doubt which of the two events will take the spotlight here Saturday. Along with Shackleford and Ruler On Ice, the Donn also lured the undefeated Trickmeister, last fall's Breeders' Cup Classic favorite Flat Out, Grade 3 winner Redeemed, Soaring Empire, Mission Impazible, Al Khali, Where's Sterling, Hymn Book, and Sangaree.
Al Khali and Sangaree were cross-entered in the Gulfstream Park Turf.
Preakness winner Shackleford arguably took the worst of the post position draw among the top contenders considering the short run to the first turn in 1 1/8-mile races at this track. Shackleford drew post 9 although he could move in a slot if Al Khali scratches to compete in the Gulfstream Turf as expected.
"I'm not too concerned about the post," trainer Dale Romans said minutes after the draw. "He's got speed and I like the fact he can sit outside and kind of track the other speed horses in the field."
Shackleford, runner-up in the Grade 1 Florida Derby here last winter, has not started since finishing second behind Caleb's Posse in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile.
Ruler On Ice skipped the Derby and Preakness, won the Belmont, and was also third in the Breeders' Cup Classic. He has turned in a series of extremely fast workouts at Palm Meadows in preparation for his 2012 debut. The prospects of a wet track would enhance Ruler On Ice's chances, considering his Belmont victory came over a sloppy surface.
A wet track would also put a smile on the face of trainer "Scooter" Dickey, whose Flat Out registered his most important victory over a muddy strip when he beat Breeders' Cup Classic hero Drosselmeyer and Travers winner Stay Thirsty in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup. Flat Out has disappointed in three subsequent starts, finishing fifth as the tepid favorite in the Classic and last when making his turf debut here earlier in the Gulfstream meet in the Grade 3 Ft. Lauderdale.
Flat Out will carry high weight of 121 pounds in the Donn, conceding two pounds to both Shackleford and Ruler On Ice.
"Throw out the turf race," Dickey said. "I just needed to get a race into him before the Donn. And a wet track certainly wouldn't hurt us. I am a little surprised that I'm the top weight considering both the Preakness and Belmont winners are in the field."
Trickmeister puts his 5-for-5 record on the line although he has never run in a graded stakes, let alone against Grade 1 company.
Both Trickmeister and Redeemed received special permission to work between races on Wednesday after a wet racetrack forced trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. to scrap their scheduled breezes earlier that morning.
Trickmeister, with exercise rider Giovanni Rogelio aboard, worked a half-mile over the good track in 49.27 seconds with a final quarter in 24.89. Jockey Edgar Prado breezed Redeemed, who looked the better of the pair going a half in 49.50 while well in hand with a final quarter split of 24.80.
Get Stormy will be the 121-pound starting highweight and likely favorite in the Gulfstream Turf. A two-time Grade 1 winner, Get Stormy will concede a pound to both Boisterous and Silver Medallion. The 11- horse field also includes Hollinger, Big Blue Kitten, Yummy With Butter, Yankee Fourtune, Kindergarden Kid, Smart Bid, and Sangaree, who was entered for the main track only.
Trainer Barclay Tagg was smiling at the prospect of having a less-than-firm turf course on Saturday for Kindergarden Kid.
"The only reason I entered him was because I was hoping we'd get some rain," said Tagg. "He definitely is better with a little give in the ground."
Saturday's card will also feature the 2012 debut of Kentucky Derby prospect Ever So Lucky, who will break from the extreme outside in a field of six 3-year-olds set to travel seven furlongs in the Grade 2 Hutcheson. Ever So Lucky made just two starts at 2, winning his debut in sensational fashion before finishing second behind the undefeated Gemologist in the Kentucky Jockey Club.
Ever So Lucky's top competition may come from the undefeated Thunder Moccasin, easy winner of his only previous start here earlier in the meet. Romans entered the uncoupled pair of Tarpy's Goal and Quick Wit. Wildcat Creek and Il Villano complete the compact lineup.
The Grade 3, $150,000 Suwanee River for fillies and mares on the grass, completes Saturday's stakes lineup.