Among 10 stakes, six ranked, worth $2.2 million on Florida Derby card (G1)
HALLANDALE BEACH, Florida – After two strong performances at the championship meet at Gulfstream Park, the speedy Traffic Song will enter the stakes company for the first time on Saturday in the $100,000 Sand Springs.
Veteran trainer Jimmy Toner – who saddled his first winner 62 years ago – had to be patient with the 4-year-old daughter of Cross Traffic, co-owned by Burning Daylight Farms and Rebecca Galbraith. She did not compete at the age of 2 and made her first appearance in a race in March 2021 at Gulfstream Park.
It took three tries before she broke her maiden at Monmouth Park in early June. Since returning to South Florida, Traffic Song finished second at a mile by three-quarter length on December 3 and earned his second career victory by 1 ½ length at the Sand Springs distance of 1 1/16 miles. on grass on January 1st. 29.
In the seventh edition of the Sand Springs, part of Gulfstream’s high-stakes Curlin Florida Derby (G1) presented by Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm at the Xalapa program, Traffic Song laid the rail in the field of eight. This group of fillies and older mares will include the Stunning Princess trained by Danny Gargan, who closed well to stifle Traffic Song on December 3.
“She’s a beautiful filly, who arrived late,” Toner said. “We sent her here to race in December and she had a good race. She got beat up by a pretty filly. We fired her on Pegasus Day and she won. She trained very well.
Toner, 81, has had great success with turf fillies during his long career which began as a teenage hotwalker at Garden State Park in the 1950s and is now in his eighth decade. He developed the 1999 champion Soaring Softly, winner of the inaugural Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf (G1) race. Other fillies who have stood out include Memories of Silver, winner of the first year of the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup and the Beverly D., his daughter Winter Memories and Wonder Again. Equibase stats show he has trained 10 Grade 1 winning horses and has 15 Grade 1 wins on his CV.
In April 1960 at Aqueduct, the 19-year-old Philadelphia native was credited with his first win as a coach with Battle Empress. Although Toner was an assistant to Bill Mitchell and handled a division of Mitchell riders, he was required by New York to have a head coaching license and was credited with his first career victory. He opened his own stable in 1963.
Toner, long a mainstay on the New York Racing Association circuit before moving to Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md., owns 12 horses at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream’s satellite training center in Palm Beach County.
In her last start of 2021 in New York on October 1, Traffic Song kept pace at the start of the 1 1/8 mile allowance, took the lead entering the stretch, but weakened at the start of the 1 1/8 mile allowance. approached the wire and finished fifth.
“We were just starting to get into the groove with her there,” Toner said. “We put her in a follow point at a mile and an eighth. At the end of the day, I think she’s a mile away from a mile-and-sixteen type horse that likes to be in the lead, which is what she showed last time. She is a little braver in the lead.
Traffic Song completed a practice ball job of five furlongs in 59.05 seconds on Saturday, and Toner said she was ready to try to add some black to her resume.
“Hopefully she can pull it off on her own with a bit of speed,” Toner said, “and we’ll see what happens.”
Jose Ortiz will pilot Traffic Song.
Stunning Princess, co-owned by RA Hill and breeder Brereton Jones, has finished on the board in all five starts since blinkers were added in March 2021. She was a half-length second at Tropical Parks Oaks on Dec. 26 at Gulfstream and was third in the Endeavor (G3) on Feb. 5 at Tampa Bay Downs. She drew Post 5 and will be ridden by Irad Ortiz, Jr.
Five-year-old French-bred Crystal Cliffs, trained by Graham Motion, is set to make her first start in almost 10 months and will start from position 4 with Tyler Gaffalione.
Despite only racing six times in her first three seasons, Crystal Cliffs showed talent, never finishing worse than third. The partnership of Michael Dubb, Madaket Stables and Wonder Stable bought Crystal Cliffs following their eight-length victory on a synthetic surface in December 2019 at the regional track of the Hippodrome de Pau in south-west France, 30 miles away from the border with Spain.
Crystal Cliffs won on their United States debut at Churchill Downs on May 31, 2000 and finished second by a head behind Harvey’s Lil Goil as favorite of Regret (G3) a month later. She has only raced twice in 2021: second by a nose in the Dahlia at Pimlico on April 24 and third by 2 ¾ lengths in the Eatontown (G3) at Monmouth Park on June 20.
“She is coming out of a break. I hope she is in good enough shape; I think she should be,” Motion said. “She’s really filled out and kind of grown. She obviously had strength issues, so her runs were a bit limited but we always gave her time. She’s doing well, so I kind of wanted to take advantage of the fact that she was there and doing well.
Runhappy daughter Grand Ave Girl has finished in the top three in seven of her eight career starts. The David Fawkes intern has drawn Post 2 for her fourth start of 2022.
Stolen Holiday, 5, of Annette Allen, is a half-sister to Group 1 winners Master of Hounds and Eishin Apollon. In his first try in a stakes race for Hall of Fame coach Shug McGaughey, Stolen Holiday will be ridden from post 3 by Hall of Famer Javier Castellano.
On February 26, Il Malocchio, the strain of Franco Meli, finished third behind champion Letruska in the Royal Delta (G3). She drew the outside post and will be ridden by Edwin Gonzalez.
Designed by Kitten returns to the stakes company two starts after being claimed by trainer Dale Romans for Sea Warrior Stables. Miguel Vasquez will ride from Post 6.
Championship Meet head coach Saffie Joseph Jr. will saddle 10-time winner Sugar Fix, who tied at post 7. The Florida student won the 2021 Claiming Crown Tiara.
Gulfstream press release
Photo: Traffic Song (Gulfstream Park Photo)