“She’s just been doing great,” trainer Stanley Gold said. “She’s been working fast. She’s been coming back good. She’s as good or better as she’s been.”
Dogwood Trail, a daughter of Awesome of Course, debuted with fanfare as a 2-year-old when she rolled home under a hand ride to break her maiden by 5 ¾ widening lengths last May. The chestnut filly would not be seen again for eight months, but when she returned from the extended layoff in an allowance, she picked up right where she left off, scoring a 2 ¾-length victory over more seasoned competitors. After suffering the first loss of her career in the Any Limit Stakes to the Grade 2 stakes-placed Taylor S, she didn’t take to the track at Tampa Bay Downs, finishing fourth as the favorite in the Sophomore Fillies Stakes. When she returned to Gulfstream, she was back on her game. In the Tangelo Handicap on June 6, she got caught up in two separate duels, one on the backstretch and a second through the stretch, and just weakened late to finish second, beaten only a length by the graded stakes-placed Huasca, who is also expected to return in the Azalea.
“We got beat last time, but we put in a good effort,” Gold said. “We took it to someone early, we put them away, then we got hooked again, and we just got a little bit weak late, but it was just bad luck.”
The Tangelo came at the same seven-furlong distance of the Azalea and also showed Gold that his filly could go the distance, dispelling any doubts following a disappointing finish in her debut at that distance in Tampa.
“She didn’t quit,” he said. “She just got a little bit weak from going head-to-head with the other horses, and it got the best of her late because of it. She never got a breather in that race.”
Since the Tangelo, Dogwood Trail has trained sharply for her graded stakes debut. On June 19, she posted the bullet five-furlong move of the day, outworking 12 others.
“She worked :58 and change last time,” Gold said, “and she’s just doing great. I’m looking forward to [the race]. I think she’ll run good.”
St. George Stable’s Huasca, however, will look to make sure the tables are not turned. The grey filly, trained by Efren Loza, has hit the board in six straight starts dating back to January’s Suncoast Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs. Prior to the Tangelo, she finished second in the Miss Preakness (G3) at Pimlico. She is a two-time winner at the distance.
The third-place finisher in the Tangelo, Fond of Sarah, will also return in the Azalea in what will be the Charles Assimakopoulos homebred’s graded-stakes debut. The Florida-bred won her previous two starts for Assimakopoulos, including a victory over Huasca in a March 6 allowance.
The Azalea will also be the graded-stakes debut for Moment of Delight. The Bill Kaplan trainee has placed in four stakes, including the Susan’s Girl and My Dear Girl divisions of the Florida Sire Stakes (FSS) series at Gulfstream last summer as well as the Juvenile Sprint and Hut Hut stakes at Gulfstream Park West last fall. A daughter of A.P. Warrior, she most recently returned from a three-month freshening to win an allowance at Gulfstream on June 13.
Sweet Swingin will ship in to Gulfstream for the Azalea, but it will not be the first time the Dale Romans trainee sets foot on the track at Hallandale. The daughter of Street Sense broke her maiden at Gulfstream in January and most recently captured an allowance at Churchill Downs on June 7.
Warriorscmoutoplay and I’m a Looker are the two other shippers. Warriorscmoutoplay will make her South Florida debut off a victory in the Jostle Stakes at Parx on June 6. Trained by Michael Stidham, the daughter of Warrior’s Reward is on a three-race win streak. I’m a Looker, trained by Patrick Dupuy, will enter the Azalea off a fourth-place finish in the Jersey Girl Stakes at Belmont Park on June 5. Two starts back, she won an allowance at Churchill Downs over Keen Pauline, who would go on to win the Black-Eyed Susan (G2) in her next start.
Last-out allowance winner Distinta and the Luis Olivares-trained Joni Gail round out the field for the Azalea, one of four graded stakes on the $1.175 million Summit of Speed program. The card, designed to showcase the best sprinters in the country, will be highlighted by the Smile Sprint (G2) and Princess Rooney (G2), both designated Win and You’re In races for the Breeders’ Cup in October. Nine of the 12 races on the program will be stakes. First post is scheduled for 12:30 p.