Grade 1 winner Decorated Invader and Grade 2 winner Focus Group will both begin their seasons with stakes assignments on Florida Derby day at Gulfstream Park on Saturday for trainer Christophe Clement.
Decorated Invader resurfaces in the Cutler Bay Stakes for three-year-olds, his first start since a troubled fourth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. He captured the Grade 1 Summer Stakes at Woodbine in his other stakes try as a 2-year-old.
He drew post 10 of 12 for the mile Cutler Bay, which shapes up as a rematch between him and Vitalogy, who finished fourth in the Summer Stakes and came back to win the Grade 3 Palm Beach Stakes at Gulfstream last month.
“I think Decorated Invader will handle any course in the country, but I wish we had drawn a better post position,” said Miguel Clement, Christophe’s son and assistant. “Nevertheless, it’s out of his control and I think he’ll run a good race regardless.”
Decorated Invader is revving back up for NYRA’s Turf Triple Series, consisting of the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Derby Invitational going 1 ¼ miles, followed by the Saratoga Derby this summer and the Jockey Club Derby during the Belmont fall meet.
Focus Group won the Pan American last year and will debut for new connections, having been purchased by Christophe Clement in the Keeneland November sale for a group of owners. Focus Group won the Pan American with an inside trip after breaking from the rail last year. This time, he will begin from post 10 of 10 for the three-turn, 12-furlong event.
“It’s a tough race but he looks well, he’s training well,” Miguel said. “He is a bit cheeky, he is a bit of an animated character, but he looks great, to be honest. “He’s the defending champ and he’s had a good break here at Payson Park. We’d be disappointed if he didn’t put in a good effort. He has a new pilot in Luis Saez and they’ll have to work out a trip from that outside post.”