Trainer Carlo Vaccarezza would love to explain away Little Alexis’s recent dull performance to circumstances, but he hasn’t uncovered a reason why the 4-year-old daughter of Mr. Greeley unexpectedly finished fourth in the Sunrise Stakes at Gulfstream Park on May 3.
“I’m dumbfounded. I have no idea. We checked the filly from head to toe; we checked her for every single thing,” Vaccarezza said. “She didn’t bleed; she had no mucous; she scoped perfect; she was sound as can be; she was kicking and bucking the next morning. It’s one of those things that we can’t figure out from now to eternity. We just draw a line through the race.”
Little Alexis, who finished more than nine lengths behind long-shot winner Celebrity Star and five lengths in back of runner-up Best Behavior in the Sunrise, is scheduled to make a rebound bid against that pair in Saturday’s $60,000 Sea Lily Handicap at Gulfstream Park.
Little Dreams Racing’s stable star, rated third in the morning line at 7-2 for Saturday’s return, had one previous start before the Sunrise, a sharp late-closing second behind graded-stakes winner R Free Roll in the Orange Blossom Handicap at Gulfstream on April 4.
Last season, Little Alexis won her first two career starts, including the Cash Run Stakes, before venturing to Saratoga to finish third, beaten by just a length, in the Test (G1). She went on to finish fourth in the Cotillion (G1) at Parx before suffering a brutal trip in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1).
Little Alexis is slated to be ridden for the first time by Jesus Rios Saturday in the 6 ½-furlong sprint. She has been assigned 118 pounds, two fewer than she carried in the Sunrise while conceding five pounds to Celebrity Star.
David Kassen-trained Celebrity Star has been assigned 119 pounds for the Sea Lily, one more than Little Alexis and two fewer than highweight Best Behavior, the 2-1 morning-line favorite in a field of six fillies and mares
Celebrity Star, rated second at 5-2 in the morning line, broke through with a career-best performance in the Sunrise, pressing the early pace before drawing off to a 3 ½-length triumph under apprentice jockey Tyler Gaffalione in her stakes debut. The David Kassen-trained 5-year-old mare ran 6 ½ furlongs in 1:16.
Best Behavior tracked the pace in the Sunrise but was unable to challenge Celebrity Star. The Marty Wolfson-trained 5-year-old mare captured the $110,000 Claiming Crown Glass Slipper at Gulfstream in her 2014 finale but is winless in four subsequent starts.
Wolfson-trained Quiet Hour (117), a late-closing 5-year-old mare, cuts back from a mile after finishing sixth in the Sand Dollar on April 19; Flutterby (117), who finished a neck behind victorious Imposing Grace in the Sand Dollar last time out ; and Almost an Angel (112) round out the field.