Coach Jeff Engler, right, has made the most of his move to Gulfstream Park

Jeff Engler has made a very positive career change from an unfortunate situation to Gulfstream Park, where the seasoned trainer will saddle up Lea Farms LLC’s fighting force for a start in the $ 75,000 Not Surprising Stakes.

The native of Cincinnati, Ohio, like too many coaches in North America last year, has faced a long period of inactivity due to the emerging Covid-19 pandemic. He took the threat very seriously, decided to be proactive, and eventually found his way to Gulfstream, one of the few racetracks that could race non-stop during the first few months of the pandemic.

“We were at the exhibition center and left early because I didn’t want to get stuck there – which everyone did. We shipped to Keeneland; we were actually the last truck to be registered in Keeneland. We stayed there, but we had nowhere to go, ”remembers Engler. “I started calling [Vice President of Racing Operations] Mike [Lakow] here in Gulfstream and after about a month of begging he had us come down and quarantined in Ocala before coming here. When we got here we loved it. We plan to stay. “

Engler, who saddled his first horse at Gulfstream on May 22, 2020 after two months of inactivity, has settled in well 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 6th Hutcheson winner, who is invited to participate in the $ 200,000 Smile Sprint Invitational (G3) on the July 3rd Summit of Speed ​​map.

“We love it here; we were accepted. The racing office was great. Everyone was great, ”said Engler, whose stable had previously driven the Fair Grounds-Churchill Downs circuit for eight years. “We did well. The owners are happy and we plan to stay. “

Fighting Force is said to meet five other three-year-olds in Not Surprising [not including an main-track-only entrant]. The Mile Turf Stakes for 3-year-olds will be marked as Race 4 of Saturday’s 12-Race Program, which also includes a mandatory Rainbow 6 payout.

The Kentucky-bred colt, bought privately by the bosses at Coolmore last winter, was previously trained by Todd Pletcher, for whom he broke his maid, finished second at Dania Beach and just under fourth at Palm Beach in 2020 -2021 championship meeting.

Fighting Force has been without a win in its three starts since changing stables after claiming grant on 27th. However, Engler hopes that Fighting Force in Not Surprising will get a more favorable line-up.

“He just didn’t get a very good run in the last two or three races. Somehow he got stuck on the rails. He didn’t have to go anywhere [last time out] and when he got away he ran, but it was too late, ”said Engler. “I think if he gets a good trip and a good trip he’ll be there in a minute.”

Samy Camacho will drive Fighting Force for the first time on Saturday.

Victoria’s Ranch King of Dreams, a second son of Air Force Blue in Not Surprising, finished ahead of the Fighting Force while finishing second in the English Channel, leading from the start gate to the finish line in the optional June 4th allowance claim .

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

Fulmini from Bell Racing LLC and Siglioso from Gelfenstein Farm LLC enter Not Surprising after becoming 1st and Registered Florida Breeders, respectively, eligible for an additional $ 25,000 in prize money, with 70 percent going to the winner, 20 percent to the runner-up and 10 percent to the third-placed.

Gary Barber and Team Valor Internationals Bright Devil, a recently-won optional grant winner, and Shamrock Highlands Thoroughbreds’ Perfect Silent Cat, a maiden, complete the peloton of the field. Alex and JoAnn Lieblongs Big Thorn, who won the off-the-turf juvenile turf stakes for Florida Breeding at Gulfstream Park West last fall, is a contestant who only plays on the main course.