Sassicaia Makes Long-Awaited Debut

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1/31/2014
12:33 pm EST

Whether or not he wins, Sassicaia is the news headliner in a maiden special weight going 6 1/2 furlongs Saturday at Gulfstream Park for 1.6 million reasons.

He's among first-time starters in the fifth race, but he's the only one that fetched $1.6 million at auction, paid by Robert LaPenta. Chad Brown trains Sassicaia.

Sassicaia, named for the famed Tuscan wine, made headlines last March at the Fasig-Tipton Florida Sale conducted at Palm Meadows. He had previously sold for $250,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky sale in July 2012.

That big price tag came after Sassicaia worked an eighth of a mile in 10 1/5 seconds at Palm Meadows. The move, coupled with the colt's physique and female family, made him the most sought-after juvenile at the sale.

"He’s a big, strong, handsome colt that looks like he has a lot of potential," Brown said. "We like the horse quite a bit."

Sassicaia's dam, Hishi Aspen, won three times at 8 1/2 furlongs in Japan. She hails from Broodmare of the Year Fall Aspen, whose descendants include champions Dubai Millennium and Timber Country.

Sassicaia has compiled 10 workouts at Palm Meadows since November 19.

"He’s been coming along very well," Brown said. "We expect that he’s the type of horse that will improve as the distances get longer. This is a good spot to get him started in, and we look forward to getting his career underway."

Sassicaia, listed at 5-1 on the morning line, will break from post four with Joel Rosario in the saddle.

He will face a pair of colts exiting a New Year's Day maiden at Gulfstream. Ragtime and Madd Exchange finished third and fourth, respectively, behind wire-to-wire winner Gambler's Ghost that day. Gambler's Ghost will contest the Hutcheson Stakes (G3) later on tomorrow's card.

Ragtime, a son of Henny Hughes, blew out three furlongs in a bullet :35 1/5 on Tuesday for trainer Shug McGaughey. Apprentice Dylan Davis will be back in the irons when the chestnut breaks from the two hole.

Trained by Todd Pletcher, Madd Exchange was the 2-1 favorite in his debut, but he broke a step slowly and made up ground belatedly. The Exchange Rate colt, a $375,000 juvenile purchase, is from the immediate family of last year's Jerome Stakes and Gotham Stakes victor Vyjack, as well as Delta Princess Stakes winner Tepin. Madd Exchange drew the rail and will have the services of leading jockey Javier Castellano.

Gulfstream Park release with additional content by Dick Downey
@DowneyProfile