Cassatt, Forever Unbridled square off
On Saturday night at Sam Houston, Cassatt will try for her second win in the Grade 3, $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic, run for the first time as a graded race.
The Ladies Classic, to be contested at 1 1/16 miles on dirt, attracted seven entrants, but Rose to Glory is expected to be scratched. Cassatt and Forever Unbridled are the favorites. Cali Star, Theogony, and Diva’s Diamond all have a fighting chance, while Welcome Aboard is a longshot.
The 5-year-old Cassatt held on to win this race in 2015 after setting a strong pace under Kerwin Clark. Florent Geroux has the mount this time.
The Ladies Classic goes as race 9 at 9:05 Central. The track should be fast for Sam Houston’s biggest card.
Forever Unbridled, by Unbridled’s Song (Last 3 Beyers: 94-88-80)
◗ She was part of a strong group of 3-year-old fillies last winter at Fair Grounds that produced the first-, second-, and third-place finishers in the Kentucky Oaks. But Forever Unbridled ran poorly in the Oaks, finishing 11th and earning a summer vacation.
“She chased those horses all winter, tried so hard, and she came out of the Kentucky Oaks really, really tired,” trainer Dallas Stewart said. “She came back bigger, stronger, very mature, and healthy.”
◗ A close, closing fi fth in the Raven Run over seven furlongs in October at Keeneland, Forever Unbridled moved forward and won the Grade 3 Comely over the talented filly Carrumba in her final start of 2015.
◗ She has put together a strong series of five workouts at Fair Grounds.
“She’s been spot on,” Stewart said Wednesday. “Her last work was great, and she had an excellent gallop today.”
Cassatt, by Tapit (Last 3 Beyers: 82-70-64)
◗ Trainer Larry Jones thinks she’s as good as she was one year ago, but that’s difficult to say. Cassatt, in search of a Grade 1 win this season, went off form in the Santa Margarita last March in her first start after the Ladies Classic. She was beaten as the favorite in a six-furlong Keeneland allowance race in October, then set the pace and held on for a narrow win in a listed stakes over a sloppy Remington Park track in December.
“This is her third race off a layoff, and she ought to be ready to roll,” Jones said. “Her last race was a big improvement off that Keeneland race.”
◗ Cassatt likes to gallop freely, and she runs fast in the morning, too. Her five-furlong works Jan. 11 and Jan. 18 were bullets, and her most recent drill, also at five furlongs, was the secondfastest of the morning.
“It’s not like she has to have the lead, but she’s got a very high cruising speed,” said Jones. “It’s easier for her to run 47 for the half than it is 48 and 4. It’s foolish for us to take away her best asset, her speed.”
Cali Star, by Street Cry (Last 3 Beyers: 89-88-78)
◗ She moved to trainer Marty Wolfson’s barn in Florida last fall and scored two straight convincing wins at Gulfstream, the last a career-best performance in the Grade 3 Rampart.