R Heat Lightning & Unrivaled Belle Star On Ladies Day Saturday
By Jack Will
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - E. Paul Robsham Stable’s 3-year-old filly R Heat Lightning will be a heavy favorite in the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) and Peter Vegso and Gary Seidler’s 5- year-old mare Unrivaled Belle is set to make her season debut in the $150,000 Rampart Stakes (G2), the two races highlighting Saturday’s Ladies’ Day program at Gulfstream Park to kick off Florida Derby weekend.
Jockey John R. Velazquez is R Heat Lightning’s regular partner and retains the mount for trainer Todd Pletcher in the 1 1/8 miles test for 3-year-old fillies, formerly known as the Bonnie Miss Stakes, as she bids to confirm her status as an early favorite for the Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill Downs on May 6.
A Florida homebred by Trippi, R Heat Lightning was a high-ranking member of her division as a 2-year-old last year, winning the Spinaway Stakes (G1) at Saratoga and finishing second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) at Churchill on Nov. 5. After a rough trip finishing fourth in the Forward Gal Stakes (G2) here on Jan. 30, she romped home a 7 ¼ lengths winner of the one-mile Davona Dale Stakes (G2) on Feb. 26.
The chief threat to R Heat Lightning in the field of seven drawn for the Gulfstream Oaks appears to be Darley Stable’s undefeated, but untested It’s Tricky with jockey Alan Garcia aboard for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.
A Kentucky homebred daughter of Mineshaft, It’s Tricky has won all three of her starts at Aqueduct, beginning with her debut in late November, followed by an allowance race by 4 ¾ lengths in late January and the Busher Stakes last out on Feb. 20 by eight lengths, the last two races at one mile and 70 yards around two turns.
Half Hollow Racing’s Beso Grande and Sarah Sharp Farish’s Island School come back in the Gulfstream Oaks after finishing first and third, respectively, in a one-mile allowance test here on Feb. 17. Jockey Jose Lezcano rides Beso Grande for trainer Steve DiMauro as the daughter of Mass Media makes her second start since finishing second in the seven-furlong Joe O’Farrell Juvenile Fillies at Calder in mid-November.
Island School is a Kentucky homebred by A.P. Indy trained by Shug McGaughey and will be ridden by Alex Solis. She finished 11th and fourth in two starts at Belmont Park and Aqueduct last year as a 2-year-old and broke her maiden by 2 ½ lengths going a mile on a ‘sloppy’ track here on Jan. 21 in her 3-year-old debut.
Completing the field are Joel Kligman’s Salary Drive, Elvis Trujillo; Ben Walden Jr. and Patrick Madden’s Triune, Paco Lopez; and Chiefswood Stable’s Kindersley, Julien Leparoux.
Unrivaled Belle Defends Rampart Title
Unrivaled Belle won the 2010 Rampart Stakes by 1 ¾ lengths wire-to-wire in her second start of a season that climaxed with her stunning victory over Blind Luck and Havre de Grace in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5.
Trainer Bill Mott has sent the Kentucky homebred daughter of Unbridled’s Song through a string of solid workouts at Payson Park as she sets forth on another campaign defending her Rampart title with regular rider Kent Desormeaux retained, facing six rival fillies and mares.
Unrivaled Belle ran four good races between the Rampart and Breeders’ Cup, beginning with a head victory in the La Troienne Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs in late April to upset 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra. She followed with three straight runner-up victories in Grade 1 events in New York at Belmont Park and Saratoga.
Unrivaled Belle faces a formidable contender Saturday in E. Paul Robsham’s 4-year-old Awesome Maria with jockey John R. Velazquez aboard for trainer Todd Pletcher. The roan/gray Kentucky homebred by Maria’s Mon closed out her 2010 season finishing second in the Gazelle Stakes (G1) at Aqueduct in late November and drew off to win the one-mile Sabin Stakes (G3) here on Feb. 19 by 4 ¾ lengths.
The intriguing prospect in the field is James Lauffer and Poplar Hill Equine’s 4-year-old filly Persuading going back to the main track after placing in three consecutive Graded stakes on turf at the meet for trainer Dale Romans.
Jockey Javier Castellano picks up the mount on Persuading after she finished second in the Marshua’s River Stakes (G3) in January, third in the Suwannee River Stakes (G3) in February and second last out in the Honey Fox Stakes (G3) on Mar. 5.
Persuading is a daughter of Broken Vow and broke her maiden at Churchill Downs on Nov. 26 by six lengths going 1 1/16 miles on a ‘sloppy’ track after that race was forced off turf. Persuading finished third and fourth twice in main track sprints at Churchill and Saratoga to begin her career.
Completing the field for the Rampart are Rose Family Stable’s Joanie’s Catch, Javier Santiago; Live Oak Plantation’s Successful Song, Edgar Prado; Darley Stable’s Dubai Dancer, Alan Garcia; and Farnsworth Stables’ Stephanie Got Even, Julien Leparoux.