Silver Max, who captured six consecutive races on turf last year, makes his 4-year-old debut March 30 in the $100,000 Appleton Stakes at Gulfstream Park.
The one-mile Appleton drew a field of 12 to the turf and shapes up as an outstanding betting race. It immediately precedes the Besilu Stables Florida Derby on Saturday's Gulfstream card as race 11 with a 5:38 p.m. EDT scheduled post.
Dale Romans trains multiple grade II winner Silver Max, who has not been out since Oct. 6 when he faded to finish ninth in the Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland. Mark Bacon and Dana Wells own the speedy bay colt by Badge of Silver who won seven of nine starts on grass during his sophomore campaign while earning $820,875.
Among Silver Max's triumphs last year were the were the American Turf at Churchill Downs and the Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs. He made his initial foray into Grade 1 company last August in the Secretariat Stakes at 1 1/4 miles, weakening to fifth after setting the pace on a good Arlington Park turf course. The loss ended his winning streak. In his next start, the Shadwell Mile, he again set the pace but wilted after a half-mile and finished nearly 11 lengths behind the victorious Wise Dan, eventual Horse of the Year.
APPLETON STAKES DRAW
Silver Max has posted back-to-back bullet moves at five furlongs over the Gulfstream lawn for Romans. His most recent clocking March 24 was :58.91 handily.
Robby Albarado is Silver Max's regular rider and they will break from post 7 in the full field.
Joes Blazing Aaron, Beau Choix, and Za Approval ran second, third, and fourth, respectively, behind Data Link in the Canadian Turf Stakes over the course and distance Feb. 23.
Joseph Witek's homebred Joes Blazing Aaron vied on the lead in the Canadian Turf at 10-1 odds before yielding late to be beaten by one length. John Velazquez retains the mount on the 5-year-old Graeme Hall gelding for trainer Eddie Kenneally.
Beau Choix, a homebred for Belle Meadows Farm and Lael Stable, closed much ground while rallying along the inside in the Canadian Turf. The Barclay Tagg trainee, a 6-year-old son of Elusive Quality, will have Rajiv Maragh aboard and they will carry co-high weight of 119 pounds.
Live Oak Plantation's homebred Za Approval, a 5-year-old Ghostzapper gelding trained by Christophe Clement, was steadied late in the Canadian International after rallying from far back. Jose Lezcano picks up the mount.
Also coming out of the Canadian Turf is Team Valor International's homebred Howe Great, a disappointing seventh after pressing the pace in his first start of the year for trainer Graham Motion. The consistent 4-year-old son of Hat Trick won the Palm Beach Stakes last year at Gulfstream going nine furlongs. He has five wins overall from 12 lifetime starts with four placings.
Trainer Michelle Nihei is represented by JMJ Racing Stables' Upgrade, winner of the Jaipur Stakes last year. The 6-year-old Saint Liam gelding tuned up for this spot with a close third to Beaux Choix and Appleton entrant Decisive Moment in a Gulfstream allowance at one mile Feb. 1.
King Kreesa, runner-up in last fall's Jamaica Handicap at Belmont Park, and Chilean-bred Omayad, a multiple Grade 1 winner in his native country in 2011, help make this a highly competitive field.