Gallucci's Gals Go For Glory At Dayton

Silver Label
Published: September 29, 2023 02:42 pm EDT

Fresh off top-five finishes in the $220,000 Milton Stakes final at Woodbine Mohawk Park two weeks ago, Silver Label and Prohibition Legal head stateside where trainer Nick Gallucci hopes the homebreds can bounce back and help him capture the $250,000 Dayton Distaff Derby at Hollywood Dayton Raceway on Saturday, Sept. 30.

“I wasn’t happy with the week Silver Label was having going into the Milton, to be quite honest, and it really showed in her performance,” Gallucci told John Rallis, writing for Trot Insider. “Nobody was beating Grace Hill on that night, she was freakish, but Silver [Label] should’ve finished up her mile a lot better if she was right. She was having some stomach issues and had a bit of an ulcer going into that start. Her blood is fine going into this weekend and I’m hoping some of those issues that hindered her a couple of weeks ago are behind her. She drew well so hopefully she can work out a good trip and bounce back.”

Drawing post position two, Silver Label (pictured above) will be paired with driver Scott Zeron for the sixth time this Saturday,  and the duo will hope to add to the success that they’ve enjoyed in limited starts together.

“Funny enough, Scott [Zeron] got me my first career win at Mohawk,” recalled Gallucci. “Once Doug was committed to Grace Hill, I needed to find a new pilot. Todd McCarthy drove her to a second-place finish in the Roses Are Red final and she raced great. Then I got Scott to drive her in the Perfect Sting and he was able to pull off the upset despite us drawing the second tier. With Scott, he’s a sensible driver and he understands all the horses that he sits behind. He doesn’t drive them all one-dimensionally, he goes into each race understanding who he’s up against, where everyone drew and so forth. He’s detail-oriented.

“I’m just happy to see her become one of the best aged mares in the division. Ever since the Roses Are Red elimination, she showed she could be competitive there, but I wasn’t expecting some of those wins to rack up in some of those stakes events,” he admitted. "I was hoping for her to be a nice open mare here on the Mohawk circuit this year, but she’s proven to be much more than that. She’s second in [divisional] earnings to Grace Hill, so it’s been a pleasant surprise.”

Stablemate Prohibition Legal will also look to make her presence felt in the aged mares division at Dayton on Saturday. She starts from post position three, directly to the outside of Silver Label. An O’Brien Award winner at the age of two, Prohibition Legal didn’t have the sophomore campaign the connections had hoped for, but the daughter of Big Jim has impressed Gallucci in her three four-year-old starts.

“I’ve always believed in [Prohibition] Legal, that’s why I brought her back,” said the trainer. “I wish I would’ve had more time to race her before all these big stakes engagements, but she is still holding her own. I didn’t expect this much of an impact so quickly, but I’ve been very pleased. She showed she was a star at two and she’s starting to remind us of that again.”

Throughout her freshman and sophomore campaign, Prohibition Legal has never been driven by anyone other than James MacDonald. However, with the reigning two-time O’Brien award winner pledging his allegiance to one of the best local mares, Gallucci wanted to assure himself a steady set of hands so he surveyed the circuit for a new pilot. He spoke to Louis-Philippe Roy about the opportunity to drive his mare and the early returns have been positive.

“I talked to Louis before she came back to qualify and he was surprised that the drive on her became available,” admitted Gallucci. “James was always her main driver and he did an excellent job guiding her throughout the first two years of her career, but he’s shown a commitment to So Much More and I figured I’d try and get a driver that I can get to commit to her. 'Legal' and Louis have been a great match – he’s given her some great trips in each one of her starts and she’s responded really well. I couldn’t be more pleased.”

Aside from going into this Saturday with just three starts under her belt this season, Gallucci is interested to see how Prohibition Legal handles the new surroundings. It will be the first time in her career that she's raced outside of Ontario.

“It's in the back of my head because she’s never raced outside of the province,” noted Gallucci. “Honestly, I’m glad she’s shipping over with her stablemate, so hopefully that keeps her in check and keeps her head pretty level for the duration of the trip.”

As for his mares making a transition from a seven-eighths to a five-eighths mile track, Gallucci isn’t concerned.

“The track configuration shouldn't be an issue whatsoever for these two. They’ve both won [Ontario Sires Stakes] Golds in the past when they raced at Georgian Downs so they should be able to handle Dayton just fine. I can’t speak on the surface, but the configuration should be no issue for either of them.”

Given how the mares will line up in the Dayton Distaff Derby, Gallucci thinks this race will be ultra-competitive, which has been the case this season with the division as a whole.

“With Grace Hill drawing outside it changes the complexion of the race. She’s one of the main contenders, if not the one to beat after her performance in the Milton Stakes but she’ll have to work for it. My mares drew the two and three holes respectively so I couldn’t be happier there. I’m hoping both can work out great trips… I think they both have a great shot to do so."

If all goes well for the pair of Millar Farms homebreds, what’s next?

“I’m bringing them home after this race and we’ll decide where to go from there,” said Gallucci. “They’re both eligible for the Allerage in Lexington, so if they come out of it okay, we’ll take them there if that’s what we decide. Then after that, it’ll be the Breeders Crown at Hoosier and if they have enough points to qualify for the TVG / FanDuel final at The Meadowlands, we’ll race there. We just have to take it start by start and make sure they’re in good enough shape to compete. I’m always going to put the horse's best interest first.”

For Gallucci, it’s all about taking it one race at a time for the two mares who have given him some of his biggest thrills as a trainer.

“With these two, it’s been exciting. Generally, we sell our horses at the end of their three-year-old campaign, but George [Millar] wants to breed these two, for good reason," noted Gallucci. “To see them race at the level they are, it’s going to be sad when I don’t get to race them anymore. They’ve given me a thrill over the last three years. Hopefully they have another year in them, but we will be focused on delivering on Saturday night.”

A free program for Saturday's card of harness racing at Dayton is available here.

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