Stopshoppingmaria Bids for Third Straight in Ladies Turf Sprint
Repole Stable’s 4-year-old filly Stopshoppingmaria, who has won a pair of condition allowance races at five furlongs on turf at the Gulfstream Park meet for leading trainer Todd Pletcher, will likely be favored to make it three straight victories with jockey John Velazquez aboard in a field of nine fillies and mares drawn for Sunday’s $60,000 Ladies Turf Sprint over the course and distance
Stopshoppingmaria has been very consistent and versatile, breaking her maiden by 9 ¾ lengths on the main track at Saratoga as a 2-year-old and comes into Sunday’s race with an 8-3-3-1 record, her only off-the-board finish a close-up fifth as the odds-on choice in a turf sprint allowance at Saratoga last summer.
Preferred Pals Stable and The Mirage Ranch’s 4-year-old filly Double the Energy also has won a pair of five-furlong turf allowance dashes in her last two starts over the Gulfstream course and distance for trainer Linda Rice and will get plenty of support Sunday with jockey Joe Rocco, Jr. getting the return call.
A roan/gray New York-bred daughter of Unbridled Energy, Double the Energy has won three of four starts for Rice after being claimed for $50,000 at Saratoga in mid-August. She has won seven of 14 career starts overall and found her best stride on turf winning four of five.
“She’s done very well for us and loves the grass,” said Rice from Belmont Park where she has her main division with Double Energy leading the winter string at Gulfstream. “She is a New York-bred which gives us a little insurance if she was to struggle in open company but, so far, that’s not the case and she’s won against some good fillies. We know this race will be tough, but she’s earned a chance.”
Green Mills Farm’s 4-year-old filly Brilliant Katie will attract solid support after a sharp 1 ¾ lengths condition allowance victory of the course and distance of Sunday’s race on Jan. 31 for trainer Michael Matz. The daughter of Gone West ran another big race when rallying for third, beaten a neck for it all in a similar race on Jan. 9. Jockey Joel Rosario will have the mount.
Brilliant Katie broke her maiden on Polytrack at Keeneland in her third start last spring, but didn’t appear to care for turf when fifth in the Crank It Up Stakes in early June at Monmouth Park in her turf debut. However, after three more tries on dirt and Polytrack at Saratoga and Keeneland, she hit her best stride with the two good races here.
Trainer Eduardo Caramori sends out his wife Ligia’s 6-year-old mare Queen’s Award with jockey Alan Garcia aboard in her first start since an eighth-place finish in the Lightning City Stakes going five furlongs on turf at Tampa Bay Downs, a good effort considering she was beaten only 1 ½ lengths for it all in a wild finish.
“She comes from behind and five-eighths is a little short for her,” said Caramori from Palm Meadows. “To have a chance at five-eighths she has to have a fast pace up front and room to run. In that last race she had no room, but ran well. We have some options with her for the future. She showed she liked the Polytrack at Keeneland.”
A daughter of Medaglia d’Oro, Queen’s Award made her previous three starts before the Lightning City on Polytrack, winning an allowance and finishing second in another at Keeneland in October before losing a neck decision in the Holiday Inaugural at Turfway Park on Dec. 1 before shipping south for the winter.
Martin Schwartz’ 5-year-old French-bred mare Whipsaw City deserves respect after rallying for third behind Double the Energy last out in the Jan. 27 allowance, beaten only three-quarters of a length as the favorite. The daughter of Elusive City is trained by Chad Brown, who guided Schwartz’ top-class mare Zagora through an Eclipse Award campaign last year. Jockey Javier Castellano will ride.
Whipsaw City won two races over the Gulfstream course early last year going a mile and placed in a pair of overnight stakes going seven furlongs at Belmont later in the season. In one start here this winter before the Jan. 27 allowance she finished ninth in the 7 ½-furlong South Beach Stakes in early December, although beaten only 2 ¾ lengths for it all by Romacaca.
Completing the field for the Ladies Turf Sprint are James Miller’s Honey Chile, Jeffrey Sanchez; William Schettine’s Rose Salvaje, Luis Saez; Polivka Equine Holdings’ Trippin’ Along, Jermaine Bridgmohan; and Cudney Stables and John Gunther’s Klondike Kate, Joe Bravo.