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Multiple G2 Winner Stormy Embrace Returns in Distaff Preview

Nov 6, 2019
Among Nine Stakes Worth $675,000 in Purses Saturday, Nov. 9

MIAMI GARDENS, FL – Matalona Thoroughbreds’ multiple graded-stakes winning homebred Stormy Embrace, unraced since early September after bypassing an earned trip to the Breeders’ Cup, is set to make her return in Saturday’s $75,000 Millions Distaff Preview at Gulfstream Park West.

The seven-furlong Distaff for Florida-bred fillies and mares 3 and older is among nine stakes worth $675,000 in purses on an 11-race Sunshine Millions Preview program that serves as a prep for the Sunshine Millions Day program Jan. 18, 2020 during Gulfstream Park’s Championship Meet.

First race post time is noon.

Stormy Embrace, a 5-year-old Circular Quay mare based at Gulfstream West with trainer Kathleen O’Connell, won the Musical Romance and Princess Rooney (G2) for the second straight summer at Gulfstream, the latter qualifying her for an all-fees-paid berth to the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) Nov. 2 at Santa Anita.

O’Connell, a winner of more than 2,100 career races, opted to skip the Breeders’ Cup this year rather than compromise her filly’s chances following a lengthy cross-country commute. Stormy Embrace finished 11th after a troubled trip in last year’s Filly & Mare Sprint, held at Churchill Downs.

“I’m happy to have her running this weekend. It’s going to be a lot less hassle,”’ O’Connell said. “The Breeders’ Cup, it was just getting too hard to get out there and too many other factors, so we decided to stay put.”

Stormy Embrace was last seen running fourth as the favorite in the seven-furlong Sheer Drama Sept. 7 at Gulfstream. Each of the top two finishers from that race, Wildwood’s Beauty and Heiressal, also return in the Distaff.

In the most recent of three works since her last race, Stormy Embrace breezed five furlongs in 1:01 from the gate at Gulfstream West Oct. 30. Wilmer Garcia, aboard for her stakes wins this year and last, gets the return call from Post 4 of six at co-topweight of 124 pounds.

“She’s doing super. We had a very good work out of the gate the other day that was all on her own, and we’re ready,” O’Connell said. “She’s been in good flesh. She’s matured. She’s out of the gawky teenager stage. She’s really a very good-looking mare, and we always hope for the best.”

Stormy Embrace has been third or better in 19 of 26 career starts with nine wins and $714,830 in purse earnings. In the lone try over her home track, she was third in the 2017 Distaff Preview at odds of 13-1.

“She works good over the track and she can walk out of her stall. I think that’s good for any horses under that scenario,” O’Connell said. “She’s sharp and she’s feeling really good.”

William Stiritz’s Wildwood’s Beauty has enjoyed a strong sophomore campaign, her first full season after making just one start at 2 – a four-length maiden special weight triumph last November at Gulfstream West.

This year, the Kantharos filly has been first or second seven times in eight starts, three of them wins, all in stakes. In late winter and early spring, she won the Sophomore Fillies and FSS Ivanavinalot at Tampa Bay Downs. Samy Camacho, up for two straight starts including a runner-up finish in the FSS Wildcat Heir Sept. 28 at Gulfstream, rides from the rail, also at 124 pounds.

My Purple Haze Stables’ homebred Heiressall, third as the favorite in last year’s Distaff Preview, will make her first start since the Sheer Drama for trainer Terri Pompay. Beaten 3 ¾ lengths by Wildwood’s Beauty, the 4-year-old daughter of Wildcat Heir has been training steadily at Gulfstream.

“Sometimes her feet are a little tender and we can’t train her; that’s why when you see her form she’s had some time in between. Other than that, she’s 100 percent,” Pompay said. “The filly is doing great. It looks like it’s going to be a pretty salty race, but she’s doing great so we decided to take a chance. She’s doing as good or better now than she was going into the last race.”

Ron Paolucci Racing’s Liza Star takes a five-race win streak into the Distaff, her 24th career start and first in a stakes. The 5-year-old Cool Coal Man mare started her streak May 18 at Gulfstream, was claimed out of the race by trainer Peter Walder for $6,250, and has tacked on four more wins by 21 combined lengths.

Liza Star is winless with one second in four tries at seven furlongs, the last coming March 13. She has raced twice at Gulfstream West, winning a November 2017 claiming event and finishing fourth last October.

“We’ve been pointing for this race since her last win. We figured she’s done everything for us fairly easy, so we may as well take a shot,” Walder said. “The only thing I’m concerned about is, even though she’s won over the track the fact of the matter is she’s won all these races in a row [at Gulfstream] and you hate to change anything. But it is what it is; we’re just going to roll with it.”

Completing the field are Suzie’ssteppinout, third by a neck in each of her last three starts, all over the synthetic surface at Presque Isle Downs; and Motion’s First, coming off a win at Gulfstream West Oct. 10.

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