Jeff Engler Making The Most Of Move To Gulfstream Park

Jeff Engler has turned an unfortunate situation into a very positive career move to Gulfstream Park, where the veteran trainer is scheduled to saddle Lea Farms LLC’s Fighting Force for a start in the $75,000 Not Surprising Stakes.

The Cincinnati, Ohio native, like too many trainers in North America, was faced with a long period of inactivity last year due to the emerging Covid-19 pandemic. Taking the threat very seriously, he chose to be proactive and would eventually find his way to Gulfstream, one of the few racetracks able to conduct racing uninterrupted during the early months of the pandemic.

“We were at Fair Grounds, and we shipped out early, because I didn’t want to get stuck there – which everybody did. We shipped into Keeneland; we were actually the last truck allowed into Keeneland. We stayed there, but we didn’t have anywhere to run,” Engler recalled. “I started calling [Vice President of Racing Operations] Mike [Lakow] here at Gulfstream and after about a month of begging, he let us come down and quarantine in Ocala before coming here. Once we got here, we loved it. We plan on staying.”

Engler, who saddled his first horse at Gulfstream May 22, 2020 after two months of inactivity, has settled in nicely at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach County. He currently trains a 25-horse stable that includes Willy Boi, the March 6 Hutcheson winner who is invited to compete in the $200,000 Smile Sprint Invitational (G3) on the July 3 Summit of Speed card.

“We love it here; we’ve been accepted. The racing office has been great. Everyone’s been great,” said Engler, whose stable had previously raced on the Fair Grounds-Churchill Downs circuit for eight years. “We’ve done well. The owners are happy, and we plan on staying.”

Fighting Force is slated to face five other 3-year-olds in the Not Surprising [not including an main-track-only entrant]. The mile turf stakes for 3-year-olds is carded as Race 4 on Saturday’s 12-race program that will also feature a mandatory payout of the Rainbow 6.

The Kentucky-bred colt, who was privately purchased last winter from the principals of Coolmore, was previously trained by Todd Pletcher, for whom he broke his maiden, finished second in the Dania Beach and finished a close fourth in the Palm Beach during the 2020-2021 Championship Meet.

Fighting Force is winless in his three starts since switching barns after being virtually eliminated at the start of the March 27 Cutler Bay, enduring a five-wide trip to finish fourth in the May 8 English Channel and racing evenly while fourth in a June 4 optional claiming allowance. However, Engler is hopeful that Fighting Force will get a more favorable set-up in the Not Surprising.

“He just hasn’t gotten a very good trip the last two or three races. He’s been kind of bottled up on the rail. He didn’t have anywhere to go [last time out] and when he got loose, he made a run, but it was too late,” Engler said. “I think if he gets a good trip and a good ride, he’s going to be right there.”

Samy Camacho is scheduled to ride Fighting Force for the first time Saturday.

Victorias Ranch’s King of Dreams, a second son of Air Force Blue in the Not Surprising, has finished ahead of Fighting Force while finishing second in the English Channel and leading from the starting gate to the finish line in the June 4 optional claiming allowance.

Emisael Jaramillo has the return mount aboard the Juan Carlos Avila trainee.

Bell Racing LLC’s Fulmini and Gelfenstein Farm LLC’s Siglioso enter the Not Surprising after finishing 1-2, respectively, in a June 3 optional claiming allowance for Florida-breds. Registered Florida-breds will be eligible for an additional $25,000 in purse money, with 70 percent going to the winner, 20 percent to the runner-up and 10 percent to the third-place finisher.

Gary Barber and Team Valor International’s Bright Devil, a recent optional claiming allowance winner, and Shamrock Highlands Thoroughbreds’ Perfect Silent Cat, a maiden, round out the main body of the field. Alex and JoAnn Lieblong’s Big Thorn, who won the off-the-turf Juvenile Turf stakes for Florida-breds at Gulfstream Park West last fall, is a main-track-only entrant.

The post Jeff Engler Making The Most Of Move To Gulfstream Park appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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