HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Madame Giry is by far the most accomplished entrant in Sunday’s $75,000 Safari Queen at Gulfstream Park, sporting a resume with four stakes victories and $438,435 in earnings.
The Cam Gambolati-trained 5-year-old mare has established herself as a turf sprint specialist who always shows up on race day.
“She tries every single time, every effort. If you look at her past performances, when she loses, there’s usually an excuse – whether she loses ground or is forced to go too wide or gets a poor ride,” Gambolati said. “She tries every time, that’s the bottom line.”
Madame Giry has been installed as the 2-1 morning-line favorite in a field of nine fillies and mares entered for the five-furlong turf dash. The daughter of Castledale has won four of 11 starts at five furlongs, a distance over which the Nutmeg Stable’s colorbearer has finished second twice in her two outings at Gulfstream.
“There a big difference between five and a half furlongs and five-eighths. She can run out of ground. You have to be a little bit more aggressive on her going five-eighths than five and a half,” Gambolati said.
Eddie Castro will be reunited with Madame Giry for the Safari Queen. The winner of multiple riding titles in South Florida before relocating to New York a few years ago, Castro rode her during a five-race 2012 winning streak that was capped by stakes triumphs in the Smart N Fancy at Belmont and the Franklin County at Keeneland.
“You have to get her into the race, Eddie knows that. Eddie’s ridden her and knows her well,” said Gambolati, who saddled Horse of the Year Spend a Buck to victory in the 1985 Kentucky Derby.
Madame Giry successfully defended her title in the Smart N Fancy, which was run at Saratoga for the first time, and captured the Jameela Stakes at Laurel last season. In her 2013 finale on Dec. 27, the Maryland-bred turf specialist closed resolutely to finish a neck behind Shrinking Violet in a Gulfstream five-furlong allowance. Shrinking Violet came right back to capture the $100,000 Lightning City at Tampa Bay Downs on Jan. 25. Madame Giry was the victim of a rough trip in that race. Shuffled back to 12th and last on the backstretch and forced to swing six-wide on the turf, she still managed to kick in to finish fourth, just 2 ½ lengths behind the winner.
Following that race, Gambolati gave his mare a break.
“We had some issues with her. She tied up on me and just wasn’t doing well. She wasn’t at the top of the game. We just gave her a little break. She wasn’t unsound or anything. It was just muscular, but she’s back and training great,” he said.
Madame Giry should be an imposing opponent for the other fillies and mares in the Safari Queen, in which all but one will seek their first stakes victories.
What a Party, rated second at 3-1 in the morning line, is scheduled to make her stakes debut in Sunday’s race. After being turned over the trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. last summer at Monmouth, the 5-year-old daughter of Congrats ran a distant third in a $10,000 maiden claiming race on dirt. Switched to turf, the Florida-bred responded by winning three of five starts, including a front-running allowance victory over next-out winner Free as a Bird in a five-furlong allowance on Feb. 17 at Gulfstream.
“She likes the distance and certainly took to the turf. It opened up more avenues for her,” said Plesa, who named Gabriel Saez to ride What a Party. “Turf really makes a difference for some horses, and she’s benefited from it.”
Coarsegold, rated third at 4-1 in the morning line, is the only stakes winner in the Safari Queen field other than Madame Giry. The 4-year-old daughter of Giant’s Causeway finished second after a very troubled trip in the Secret Grace Stakes at Gulfstream during the 2012-2013 Champions Meet before being placed first via disqualification. The Mark Hennig-trained filly has placed in three subsequent stakes and may benefit from the cutback to five furlongs, a distance at which she broke her maiden at Gulfstream prior to earning her only stakes victory.
Joe Bravo has been named to ride Coarsegold, who was aboard for both her maiden-breaker and her win in the Secret Grace.
Angel’s South, Satan’s Mistress, Peggy Joyce, Kombat Cat, Claiming Victory and Queen Negwer round out the Safari Queen field.