Oaks And Rampart Highlight Saturday's Ladies Day Program
By Jack Will
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - Renewals of the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) for 3-year-old fillies, formerly known as the Bonnie Miss Stakes, and the $150,000 Rampart Stakes (G2) for fillies and mares, both races run at 1 1/8 miles, highlight next Saturday’s Gulfstream Park card with the $1 million Florida Derby (G1) and three other Graded stakes set for Sunday.
The Gulfstream Oaks will almost certainly yield potential contenders for the Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill Downs as the Florida Derby does the Kentucky Derby (G1). Last year, Glencrest Stable’s Devil May Care won the Bonnie Miss for trainer Todd Pletcher and would likely have been favored in the Kentucky Oaks, but ran 10th in the Derby the next day won by Pletcher-trained Super Saver.
Pletcher appears to have the favorite for the Gulfstream Oaks in E, Paul Robsham Stable’s R Heat Lightning, 7 ¼ lengths winner of the $250,000 Davona Dale Stakes (G2) going one mile here on Feb. 26. The homebred daughter of Trippi ranked among the nation’s top 2-year-olds last year, finishing second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) at Churchill Downs behind Awesome Feather, the latter still on the sidelines.
An intriguing prospect for the Gulfstream Oaks is Darley Stable’s It’s Tricky, who earned a trip from New York to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin’s winter quarters at Palm Meadows after winning all three of her career starts at Aqueduct. The daughter of Mineshaft captured her debut in late November, an allowance in late January by 4 ¾ lengths and the Busher Stakes last out on Feb. 20 by eight lengths.
The Rampart could shape up as the best filly and mare test of the season on the national calendar if the connections of Peter Vegso and Gary Seidler’s 5-year-old Unrivaled Belle and/or DeBartolo Racing’s 6-year-old Life At Ten choose to go. Both are training strongly toward their 2011 campaign debuts for trainers Bill Mott and Todd Pletcher, respectively.
Unrivaled Belle is a roan/gray daughter of Unbridled Song preparing at Payson Park for her first start since winning the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Distaff (G1) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5 by 1 ¾ lengths over 3-year-old filly Eclipse champion Blind Luck as Life At Ten was eased in the stretch.
Unrivaled Belle won the Rampart last year in her second start of the season and went on to upset Rachel Alexandra in the La Troienne Stakes (G2) at Churchill in late April. She won the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic after three runner-up efforts in major Graded stakes at Belmont Park and Saratoga.
Life At Ten won five of seven starts last year, including the Beldame Stakes (G1) at Belmont over Unrivaled Belle in early October. A chestnut daughter of Malibu Moon, Life At Ten posted major victories in the Ogden Phipps Handicap (G1) at Belmont and Delaware Handicap (G2) earlier in the season.
Pletcher has another highly-accomplished nominee for the Rampart with a winning race over the track in E. Paul Robsham Stable’s 4-year-old homebred Awesome Maria. The roan/gray daughter of Maria’s Mon won the one-mile Sabin Stakes (G3) by 4 ¾ lengths in her first start since finishing second in the Gazelle Stakes (G1) at Aqueduct in late November.
In addition to the 60th Florida Derby on Sunday, the program will include renewals of the $150,000 Swale Stakes for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs, $100,000 Emirates Airlines Appleton Stakes (G3) for older horses at one mile on turf and $100,000 Skip Away Stakes (G3) for older horses at 1 3/16 miles on the main track.
Peachtree Stable’s Flashpoint will be the horse to beat if he goes in the Swale after two commanding victories to begin his career for trainer Rick Dutrow. The roan/gray colt by Pomeroy won his debut at Aqueduct on Jan. 15 by 6 ¼ lengths and the $150,000 Hutcheson Stakes (G2) here on Feb. 26 by 7 ¼ lengths at seven furlongs.
Other probable/possible prospects for the Swale include Harold Queen’s Little Drama, Stud El Aguila’s Indiano, Zayat Stable’s Black N Beauty, Leo Azpurua., Jr.’s Manicero and E. Paul Robsham Stable’s Travelin Man.