Unplaced in five starts dating back to the Grade 1 United Nations in July 2011, multiple Grade 1 winner Teaks North was understandably not much of a hot commodity on the tote in the January 19 Florida Sunshine Millions Turf at Gulfstream Park. That was especially true after a poor 10th-place effort in the December 22 El Prado, the Northern Afleet gelding's first race back from an 11-month layoff.
In the event, Teaks North proved not to be over the hill. Taking a lead no one else seemed to want, the six-year-old set a dawdling pace over yielding ground and was left unchallenged throughout the nine-furlong event and crossed the wire 2 1/2 lengths on top.
Teaks North will attempt to make it two in a row on Saturday in the Grade 2, $150,000 Mac Diarmida at Gulfstream. The program also includes another 1 3/8-mile grass stakes, the Grade 3, $100,000 The Very One for fillies and mares.
Teaks North surprisingly developed into one of the more accomplished, albeit inconsistent, American grass runners of 2011. In addition to the United Nations at Monmouth, Teaks North also captured the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap and Grade 3 Monmouth. Things went south following his score in the 1 3/8-mile United Nations, however, and the the Michelle Nevin trainee was limited to just three starts last term.
Vying for favoritism will be Newsdad, who missed by a nose as the favorite in the 2012 Mac Diarmida. The Bill Mott-trained five-year-old later rebounded to take the Grade 2 Pan American over 12 furlongs, but went unplaced in four subsequent starts before a sharp two-length tally in the Grade 2 Fayette over the Keeneland Polytrack last time.
Runner-up to Newsdad in the Fayette was Nikki's Sandcastle, who went on to capture both the Claiming Crown Emerald and El Prado in the first month of the Gulfstream meet. His two-race win streak was snapped last time in the Grade 2 Ft. Lauderdale, where the gelding endured a wide trip before rallying for fourth money.
Twilight Eclipse went from unraced maiden to Grade 2 winner in the span of less than six months as a three-year-old last season. The late-developing son of Purim scored an upset win in the Grade 2 W.L. McKnight Handicap at Calder in late November, upsetting older rivals at odds of 11-1 despite having gone unplaced in two prior turf stakes attempts.
Fourth as the favorite in the McKnight was Ioya Bigtime, who also returns to action in the Mac Diarmida. The front-running Dynaformer horse earned Grade 3 victories in the Stars and Stripes Turf and the Kentucky Turf Cup last year.
Others of note in the Mac Diarmida are Fifty Proof, who has narrowly missed at the Grade 1 and Grade 2 level on turf in Canada; Lucky Chappy, who placed last season in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby and Grade 2 Virginia Derby; and Amira's Prince, a sharp allowance winner in both U.S. starts for Mott.
Juddmonte Farms' homebred Starformer, another from the powerhouse Bill Mott stable, is the potential favorite in The Very One. The Dynaformer mare, who breaks from post 1, was a wire-to-wire winner of the Grade 3 Long Island Handicap and Grade 3 Robert G. Dick Memorial last season, and was a course-and-distance allowance winner at Gulfstream a year ago this week.
Another with early foot is Closing Range, who pulled off a 19-1 stunner in the Grade 3 La Prevoyante Handicap at Calder in late November. A three-year-old at the time, the Phil Oliver pupil was making just her sixth lifetime start in the 1 1/2-mile fixture.
Kadaya enters The Very One off two Gulfstream allowance wins in as many U.S. starts, while Game Fair and Seanchai also have won at that level over the Gulfstream course this meet. Also among the entries are Janicellaine, who placed in several stakes last season including the Grade 3 My Charmer Handicap and the Dowager, and the Group 2 Italian Oaks runner-up Angegreen, who has yet to replicate her best European form in three U.S. starts so far.