Following a disappointing fifth as the favorite in the Grade 3 Ack Ack on dirt, Dominus will return to turf in Saturday's Grade 2, $150,000 Ft. Lauderdale at Gulfstream Park. The five-year-old horse is scheduled to meet 10 rivals in the 1 1/16-mile affair.
Dominus made his first seven career starts on the main track, winning the Grade 2 Dwyer and placing in two other graded events in 2011. He was transferred from Steve Asmussen to Todd Pletcher last year and won at first asking for the new barn, taking a seven-furlong allowance/optional claiming event on Saratoga's dirt in early August. The son of Smart Strike then tried turf in the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch and posted a convincing wire-to-wire tally, defeating multiple Grade 1 winner Data Link in the process. Dominus proved no match for Wise Dan in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile next out, weakening to sixth in the latter stages, but the dark bay won't have to deal with any rivals of that caliber Saturday.
He posted four turf works during a recent 21-day period at Palm Meadows in advance of the Ft. Lauderdale, and John Velazquez will be re-united with the promising turf runner. Dominus will break from post 4.
Nikki's Sandcastle will enter the race in career-best form for trainer David Kassen. A former claimer, the six-year-old gelding recorded a fine second in the Grade 2 Fayette Stakes on Keeneland's Polytrack before embarking on his current two-race win streak over Gulfstream's turf, capturing the December 1 Claiming Crown Emerald before utilizing a tremendous finishing kick to prove best in the overnight El Prado on December 22. Regular rider Corey Lanerie will be up on the chestnut son of Castledale.
Hollinger ran well in his two previous local appearances, compiling a pair of runner-up finishes in the Ft. Lauderdale and Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf last year, and the six-year-old gelding can't be dismissed from win consideration following his second in the Grade 3 Tropical Turf at Calder. Edgar Prado will pick up the mount for trainer Roger Attfield. Big Blue Kitten was third in the 2012 Gulfstream Park Turf and recently returned from a layoff with a nice allowance/optional claming score at Gulfstream for Chad Brown. Javier Castellano rides the legitimate win contender.
Fifty Proof, a top Canadian performer in 2010-11, recently returned from a 16-month layoff with a win at Woodbine and the seven-year-old veteran will attempt to make an impact in his second start back for conditioner Ian Black. Mucho Mas Uno and Vertiformer, the respective runner-up and third-placer in the Grade 2 W.L. McKnight at 1 1/2 miles, will both cut back in trip, and Grade 2-placed Sky Blazer is two for three over the course.
Grade 2 hero Pants on Fire is entered for the main-track only.