Horse Racing

Wildcat Red looks for reversal of fortune in return to Gulfstream

Race horse trainer Jose Garoffalo with his colt, Wildcat Red, at Gulfstream racetrack, Friday, April 18, 2014.
Race horse trainer Jose Garoffalo with his colt, Wildcat Red, at Gulfstream racetrack, Friday, April 18, 2014. MIAMI HERALD FILE

Wildcat Red was red hot at Gulfstream Park a year ago.

Now, after failing to find success at other race tracks over the course of his 2014 campaign, the colt returns in search of comeback at the spot where he has done his best racing.

The 4-year-old figures strongly in Saturday’s $250,000 Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream.

“That’s an advantage when you race on your home track and you have a horse that likes the track,” trainer Jose Garoffalo said. “The surface is best for him.”

Wildcat Red made his mark at Gulfstream early last year when he won the Hutcheson and Fountain of Youth Stakes before finishing a game second in the Florida Derby.

But his fortunes changed the moment he left South Florida. He was 18th — finishing ahead of only one other horse — in the Kentucky Derby and failed to win in subsequent stakes, including the Grade I Haskell Invitational at Monmouth, the Grade I Kings Bishop Stakes at Saratoga and the Grade III Oklahoma Derby at Remington Park.

In November, racing at Gulfstream Park West — the track formerly known as Calder — he finished a close second to East Hall in the Millions Classic Preview.

He will not only have East Hall to overcome Saturday in the 11/8-mile event, one of five stakes restricted to horses bred in Florida, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York, but also four other contenders.

One of those is 9-5 program favorite Transparent, who has posted eye-catching Beyer speed figures in several of his previous races but has yet to win a graded stakes.

East Hall, trained by local horseman Bill Kaplan, won both the Indiana and Ohio derbies last year, and capped off his season by defeating Wildcat Red by two lengths at Gulfstream Park West in November.

Wildcat Red figures to race on the lead, and then try to fend off of his rivals in the stretch. He will be ridden by Joel Rosario.

“He has the spirit of a fighter,” Garoffalo said. “He likes to be out front fighting with another horse. It makes him better, more aggressive. From now on, my instructions [to the jockey] are going to be, ‘Go to the lead. Don’t worry about the fractions.’”

Rounding at the field will be Sr. Quisqueyano, I’m Steppin’ It Up and Catholic Cowboy.