By Ed Gray For Gulfstreampark.com
HALLANDALE, Fla. – Roxy Gap won all three of her starts at Woodbine last summer by big margins for trainer Mark Casse, and the Melnyk Racing Stable’s Canadian homebred could rule as the favorite in a field of six 3-year-old fillies entered in Wednesday’s $100,000 Old Hat Stakes. The Grade 3 six-furlong sprint will highlight the opening day program of the 2011 Gulfstream Park season that runs through Apr. 24.
Jockey Julien Leparoux gets the call on Roxy Gap in her first start since capturing a 1-1/16-mile turf allowance by 4 ¾ lengths on Aug. 21. The daughter of Indian Charlie had won her debut by 6 ½ lengths going five furlongs on July 3 and the $150,000 Shady Well Stakes by 2 ½ lengths over six furlongs on July 18. Both of those races were run over the synthetic Polytrack main-track surface at Woodbine.
Owner-trainer Wesley Ward’s Final Mesa also will get plenty of support with California-based jockey Joel Rosario named to ride. The New York-bred daughter of Sky Mesa has made three of her four starts on synthetic tracks but didn’t miss a beat while winning the $50,000 Polly Drummond Stakes on dirt at Delaware Park by 4 ¾ lengths in May.
Final Mesa won her debut at Keeneland in mid-April by 7 ½ lengths and the $150,000 My Dear Stakes at Woodbine in late June by 7 ½ lengths. She suffered her lone defeat last time out in the Sorrento Stakes (G3) at Del Mar on Aug. 6, tiring to sixth behind Wickedly Perfect after dueling for the lead to mid-stretch.
“The layoff is a bit of a concern. I think some of the other fillies in there might be a little more race-fit,” Ward said. “She looks fast, but she can sit off the speed. She’s a really easy-going filly and will do whatever we ask. I think she’s equally good on dirt and synthetic. The surface is not a concern.”
Trainer Tony Dutrow will send out a solid contender for the 30th edition of the Old Hat in Daniel Ryan’s Pennsylvania-homebred Quantum Miss with Jeremy Rose in the saddle. The roan/gray daughter of Smoke Glacken has made three starts, finishing third in her debut at Parx Racing in September, before breaking her maiden there by 5 ½ lengths in late October and winning an allowance at Penn National by 16 lengths on Nov. 26.
Another intriguing prospect in the field with more experience on synthetic surfaces than dirt is Jean and Thomas Bosch’s Florida-homebred It’s Me Mom, a Tampa Bay Downs shipper for trainer Lynn Scace and regular rider Willie Martinez. The daughter of Put It Back made the first five starts of her career on the Tapeta synthetic surface at Presque Isle Downs, winning the last three.
After drawing off to win the $100,000 Presque Isle Debutante by 6 ¾ lengths on Sept. 26, It’s Me Mom made one more start last year after shipping into Tampa Bay for the winter season. Sent away from the gate as the odds-on favorite in the $75,000 Sandpiper Stakes on Dec. 26, she ran very well in her first try on dirt to finish second after setting the pace to the upper stretch in the six-furlong sprint.
Completing the field for the Old Hat are Florence Pattitucci’s Mis Vizcaya, who will be ridden by Rajiv Maragh for trainer Juan Vasquez, and Hardacre Farm’s Pomeroys Pistol, with Paco Lopez aboard for owner-breeder-trainer Amy Tarrant.