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First Captain Set for 5-Year-Old Debut in Ghostzapper

Unraced since October, the son of Curlin looks the one to beat in his return.

First Captain schools in the paddock March 29 at Gulfstream Park

First Captain schools in the paddock March 29 at Gulfstream Park

Coglianese Photos

West Point Thoroughbreds, Siena Farm, Bobby Flay, and Woodford Racing's multiple graded-stakes winner First Captain, unraced since late October, is set to make his 5-year-old debut in the April 1 $150,000 Ghostzapper Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park.

Trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey, First Captain hasn't been out since finishing last of five as the favorite in the 1 1/8-mile Fayette Stakes (G2) Oct. 29 at Keeneland. In his three prior starts he won the historic Pimlico Special Stakes (G3), was second by a nose in the Suburban Stakes (G2), and third behind Olympiad  and Americanrevolution in the Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes (G1).

"It's exciting. He's progressed nicely from everything that Shug has shared with us coming into the Ghostzapper. It looks like just a great spot to start his year," West Point executive vice president Tom Bellhouse said. "He couldn't look any better and we're just excited to get his year started."

A son of Curlin , First Captain fetched $1.5 million at the 2019 Fasig-Tipton New York Saratoga Select Yearling Sale. After going unraced at 2, he reeled off three straight wins at 3 to open his career, capped by the 2021 Dwyer Stakes (G3) at Belmont Park.

Third in the Curlin Stakes at Saratoga, First Captain did not race for seven months until coming back with a dramatic head allowance optional claiming victory sprinting seven furlongs last February at Gulfstream, his only prior start over the surface.

"He's put together a nice resume, winning the Dwyer, winning the Pimlico Special, being right there in graded stakes, coming in third in the Jockey Club to a horse in Olympiad who was a legitimate five-time winner last year," Bellhouse said. "We would have loved to have ended it on a higher note, but we backed off him after the Fayette.

"He's a really special horse, going all the way back to what he cost at auction and being the sale topper," he added. "He's just a beautiful, beautiful animal. He's grown into his body. He didn't get started until early in his 3-year-old season and then putting together the 4-year-old campaign. He's the kind of horse that we have him positioned to have a great 5-year-old campaign and hopefully he does finalize that grade 1 to really cement him into a top stallion prospect. He's got the pedigree, he's got the look, he's got the sales history, he's got everything going."

Luis Saez will be aboard for the fifth straight time from post 5 in a field of seven.

Championship meet-leading trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. entered the pair of O'Connor and Twelve Volt Man. Michael and Jules Iavarone and Fernando Vine Ode's O'Connor is a group 1 winner in his native Chile that carried big expectations into his North American debut, a six-length allowance optional claimer win Oct. 16 at Gulfstream.

In two subsequent starts, O'Connor ran fourth in the Harlan's Holiday Stakes (G3) and 11th in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes (G1) Jan. 28.

Magic Cap Stables’ Twelve Volt Man last raced on the Pegasus undercard, unable to overcome a troubled start when 11th in the Fred W. Hooper Stakes (G3). Fourth in last year’s Ghostzapper, he owns five career wins from 11 starts at Gulfstream including a 10-1 upset of the 2021 Claiming Crown Jewel Starter Stakes.

Entries: Ghostzapper S. (G3)

Gulfstream Park, Saturday, April 1, 2023, Race 7

  • Grade III
  • 1 1/16m
  • Dirt
  • $150,000
  • 4 yo's & up
  • 2:26 PM (local)
11Surly Furious (KY)Jose L. Ortiz122Glenn S. Wismer15/1
22Cajun's Magic (FL)Jesus M. Rios118Michael Yates15/1
33Simplification (FL)Keeneland Sales GraduateJoel Rosario118Antonio Sano5/2
44O'Connor (CHI)Irad Ortiz, Jr.120Saffie A. Joseph, Jr.3/1
55First Captain (KY)Luis Saez120Claude R. McGaughey III9/5
66Clapton (FL)Emisael Jaramillo122Juan Alvarado8/1
77Twelve Volt Man (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateEdgard J. Zayas118Saffie A. Joseph, Jr.8/1
This press release has been edited for content and style by BloodHorse Staff.