Todd Pletcher-trained Zulu returned to the races a winner in the $60,000 Tamarac Stakes at Gulfstream Park Dec. 18. Watch Video
The 3-year-old son of Bernardini , who had not run since finishing 12th as the favorite in the Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland in April, was sent to the sidelines to regroup.
In his return Sunday, Zulu sat off the pace in the seven-furlong Tamarac before reaching the leaders around the far turn. Ridden by Javier Castellano, the 1-2 favorite moved to the lead at the top of the lane, and drew off to a 2 3/4-length victory over Yellow Chips while being kept to the task by his rider. The win was the 300th of the year for Castellano.
"I'm very excited to do it with this horse," Castellano said of his 300th win. "He was impressive. He's a really nice horse. I'm glad to see him come back. I'm very satisfied the way he did it today. He's a very classy horse. I give all the credit to Mr. Pletcher, the way he brought him back after a long time."
At the 2015-16 championship meet, Zulu showed his affinity for the Gulfstream Park oval, winning the first two starts of his career in easy fashion. In his stakes debut, he finished second to Mohaymen in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II).
"He has natural speed but he's not super quick, either. The benefit of drawing outside is you get a little opportunity to let things unfold and let him get his legs up underneath him. I thought when Javier asked him, he responded well," said Pletcher, who notched his seventh stakes victory so far in the championship meet.
Graded stakes-placed Yellow Chips closed from last in the seven-horse field to finish 2 1/2 lengths clear of third-place finisher Fearless Dragon. Zulu, who is owned by Stonestreet Stables, Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier, and Derrick Smith, ran the seven furlongs in 1:22.12.
"Overall I thought it was a good effort, Pletcher added. "He hadn't run in eight months so anytime (they) haven't been out in a while you hope you have them tight enough and fit enough. He had to kind of overcome a little bit of a wide trip, but I think the final time was pretty solid considering. It'll be interesting to see how the time stacks up on the day, but there was a pretty good headwind down the stretch. I thought it was a good effort."
Pletcher said the $150,000 Hal's Hope (gr. III) at Gulfstream Jan. 14 looks like a "nice fit" for Zulu.
"There are a number of options," he said. "The Hal's Hope, the Poseidon (Jan. 28)—we've got plenty of options. I think the key is to see how he comes out of the race and how soon we want to run him back. Just off the top of my head it seems like the Hal's Hope might be a nice fit for him, but it's four weeks, so we'll see how he bounced out of it and take it from there."