Laurel Park: Barbara Fritchie
OLDSMAR, Fla. – Trainer Mark Casse has a strong hand for Festival Preview Day on Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs, where he’ll send out Whatawonderflworld in the Grade 3, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes and Tepin in the Grade 3, $150,000 Endeavour Stakes.
The Endeavour, a 1 1/16-mile turf race for older fillies and mares, will be the first start for the 5-year-old Tepin since she defeated males in the Breeders’ Cup Mile on Oct. 31. Tepin, who won an Eclipse Award as the top female turf runner of 2015, has been training steadily at Palm Meadows ahead of her 2016 debut.
The Endeavour is the key local prep for the Grade 2 Hillsborough Stakes on March 12.
Whatawonderflworld will be looking to stretch his winning streak to four races in the Sam F. Davis Stakes, which is for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles. The race is the key local prep for the biggest race of the meet, the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby on March 12. Last month, Whatawonderflworld won his stakes debut in the $100,000 males’ division of the OBS Championship Stakes at the Ocala Training Center, which has a
The Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie at Laurel Park on Saturday has an eerily familiar ring to it. In 2015, the locally based Lady Sabelia faced a red-hot 4-year-old shipper who went off favored. Last year, that role was filled by Sam’s Sister. On Saturday, it will be Hot City Girl.
Even the weather figures to be about the same for this edition of the Fritchie. The coldest temperatures of the season are expected this weekend, just in time for Laurel’s two-day Winter Carnival.
Nothing would make trainer Robin Graham or owners Frank and Virginia Wright happier than if the Fritchie results mirror those of last year, when Lady Sabelia took jockey Horacio Karamanos to the lead and never looked back while winning by 1 1/2 lengths.
“It would be huge to repeat in this race,” Graham said. “Whenever you can win a graded stakes at home, it’s special. And this is such an old race, it seems to have always been around.”
The Fritchie has been run since 1952. Four horses have won the race twice, the most recent being Xtra Heat in 200203. Xtra Heat, the champion 3-year-old filly of 2001, won 26 of 35 career starts.
Lady Sabelia, 6, has raced only 18 times. Her 10 wins include seven stakes. She comes into the Fritchie off victories in the Willa On the Move Stakes at Laurel and the Pumpkin Pie at Belmont Park.
Graham and the Wrights have discussed retiring Lady Sabelia, but those plans are on hold.
“If everything stays the way it is now, we’ve kind of decided
to run her again this year,” Graham said. “The reason she’s doing what she is now is because the Wrights gave her time whenever she needed it. There was never an agenda or a plan. We’ve always just run her when she was right.”
Lady Sabelia is distinctive on the track because she races with a plastic bubble over her right eye, which has been susceptible to ulcers since the end of her 3-year-old season. Her eye flared up following her Dec. 5 win in the Willa On the Move.
“It’s just one of those things,” Graham said. “There’s never any warning, but it will swell up and make her uncomfortable. Having been poked in the eye myself, I know an injured eye will make you feel bad all over.”
Graham said Lady Sabelia’s eye is fine now and that the 10-week break between races is not a concern. Lady Sabelia has won following much longer layoffs three times in her career.
“She has a ton of class,” Graham said. “She listens to what you want her to do, and then she does it.”
Santa Anita: Pair of Grade 2s
ARCADIA, Calif. – There are two Grade 2, $200,000 stakes for older horses on Saturday – the Santa Maria Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles and the Arcadia Stakes at a mile on turf.
The Santa Maria field has eight projected starters, including Birdatthewire and Yahilwa, who were second and third in the Grade 2 La Canada Stakes for fillies and mares on Jan. 16. Taris, the La Canada winner, is expected to start in the Grade 1 Santa Margarita Stakes on March 19.
Other probable starters for the Santa Maria are Big Break, Gas Total, Kyriaki, Living The Life, Star Act, and Tara’s Tango.
The Arcadia Stakes will have a small field. The list of runners is led by Om, a threetime stakes winner on turf in the second half of 2015. Trained by Dan Hendricks, Om won the Grade 2 Mathis Brothers Mile for 3-year-olds on Dec. 26.
His opponents in the Arcadia are expected to include Bolo, Obviously, and Prospect Park.
Bolo has not started since finishing ninth in the Belmont Derby last July. He was vanned off after that race.
Obviously was second by a neck in the Grade 2 San Gabriel Stakes on Jan. 9. Prospect Park won the Grade 3 La Jolla Handicap on turf last August but has not raced since finishing third as the 1-5 favorite in the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby in August.
Trainer Clifford Sise said last week that the Arcadia Stakes is a prep for the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap on March 12 for Prospect Park.
Gulfstream: Royal Delta
HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – The main story line in the Royal Delta Stakes at Gulfstream Park will focus on whether Sandiva can make the same remarkable turf-to-dirt transition pulled off recently by her Al Shaqab Racing stablemate Mshawish.
There are opposing trainers who will do their best to foil that. One is Dale Romans, who will send out Gamblers Rose as one of the longer shots in the Grade 2, $200,000 Royal Delta, which will be run Saturday as the only graded race here between now and Fountain of Youth Day on Feb. 27.
“She’s training good, and we’re hoping to get some graded black type for her,” said Romans, who has the distinction of having been the last trainer to defeat Wise Dan (with Silver Max) and American Pharoah (with Keen Ice). “Plus, you never really know about horses trying something for the first time.”
His reference is to Sandiva, the likely favorite in a prospective small field for the 1 1/16mile Royal Delta. The 5-yearold Sandiva has never raced on anything but turf in 18 career starts. Mshawish also had never raced on dirt until last fall and now has gone 2 for 3 on it, culminating with a power- ful victory here last Saturday in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap. Both horses are trained for Al Shaqab by Todd Pletcher.
Besides Sandiva and Gamblers Rose, other fillies and mares definite for the Royal Delta include Best Behavior and Penwith, both two-length winners of their respective last starts at Gulfstream. Best Behavior, trained by Marty Wolfson, won the Grade 3 Sugar Swirl on Dec. 26, while Penwith, trained by Kiaran Mclaughlin, returned from a layoff of nearly a year with a Jan. 21 allowance triumph.
Aqueduct: Statebred stakes
OZONE PARK, N.Y. – There was some allure for trainer and part-owner Jimmy Iselin to ship Willet to Maryland for Saturday’s Grade 2, $300,000 Barbara Fritchie Stakes at Laurel. A win would have been her first in a graded stakes, and she could have earned enough money to surpass the $1 million mark in purse earnings.
But the specter of subfreezing temperatures in Maryland and the chance to run Willet out of her own stall at Aqueduct made Saturday’s $100,000 Broadway Stakes a more attractive proposition for Iselin. Thus, Willet was one of six New Yorkbred fillies and mares entered Wednesday for the Broadway at six furlongs.
The Broadway, which will go as race 3, shares top billing on Saturday’s nine-race card with the $100,000 Haynesfield for New York-bred 4-year-olds and up. First post Saturday is 12:50 p.m. Eastern.
Willet is 8, and Iselin insists that she will be bred this spring. Curlin and Tiznow are the leading stallion prospects, according to Iselin. However, Iselin believes Willet is sound and happy, attributes she displayed on a chilly Wednesday morning while galloping over the inner track.
“The only reason we’re running is because she’s really doing well,” Iselin said. “I wanted to run in the Barbara Fritchie, but I’m not going to ship down there in 1 degree temperatures. She’s not the kind of horse I want to ship to a new environment.”
Temperatures are expected to be frigid in New York on Saturday as well, which could put the Aqueduct card in jeopardy.
Willet has made all 29 of her starts in New York. She has 10 wins, 8 seconds, and 6 thirds. She is a five-time stakes winner but is winless in eight graded stakes attempts. In 2012, she was beaten a neck in the Grade 2 Go for Wand at Aqueduct. In 2013, she finished third in the Grade 1 Ballerina.
Irad Ortiz Jr., who won the 2015 Interborough on Willet and was on her for a thirdplace finish in allowance company last out, has the call again Saturday. Though Ortiz is named to ride Wonder Gal in the Barbara Fritchie, it is expected that he will stay in New York provided Aqueduct conducts racing.
Willet drew post 3 in the Broadway. Also entered were Myfourchix, Tricky Zippy, Make the Moment, Blithely, and Court Dancer.
Trainer Rudy Rodriguez entered Good Luck Gus and Royal Posse in the Haynesfield Stakes at 1 1/16 miles.
Good Luck Gus, the winner of the Albany Stakes at Saratoga in August, is coming off a thirdplace finish behind Empire Dreams and Saratoga Snacks in the Alex M. Robb here on New Year’s Day. He won the Damon Runyon Stakes over the inner track as a 2-year-old in 2014.
Royal Posse, the winner of the Claiming Crown Jewel in December at Gulfstream Park, is coming off a second-place finish behind Majestic Affair in the Jazil Stakes here on Jan. 16.
“He ran a very good race,” Rodriguez said. “The other horse just ran better than us.”
Irad Ortiz Jr. will ride Good Luck Gus from post 5. Junior Alvarado is named on Royal Posse from post 4.
The others entered in the Haynesfield are Saratoga Snacks, Ostrolenka, Fox Rules, Johannesburg Smile, and West Hills Giant.
The Haynesfield will go as race 8.
Whatawonderflworld, who won the OBS Championship, will go in the Sam F. Davis Stakes.