Oaklawn Park will set the stage for the next step along
the Kentucky Oaks trail this Saturday when it hosts the $125,000 Grade 3
Honeybee Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. A field of nine talented fillies has
been entered in the 2011 renewal of the 1 1/16 mile race.
Leading the field is Grade 1 winner Rigoletta along with Grade
2 winner Dixie City and the graded stakes placed Joyful Victory.
Rigoletta broke her maiden in her second try last year
before placing third in the Darley Debutante (gr.1) and winning the Grade 1 Oak
Leaf Stakes in early October. She was forced to miss the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Fillies (gr.1) because of a popped splint. She made her 3-year-old debut in the
La Habra Stakes (gr.3) on February 21st at Santa Anita and finished
an uninspiring 5th in her first try on turf. Trainer Dan Hendricks
stated that he does not think the filly is as good on the grass and feels she
will run a much better race in the Honeybee. She won the Oaks Leaf at the same
1 1/16 mile distance as the Honeybee but has never started on a dirt surface.
Her latest work, a 5 furlong bullet move completed in a time of :58.40, seems
to indicate that she is ready to run a sharp race.
[Rigoletta currently ranks 12th on the HRN Kentucky Oaks Contenders page]
Dixie City will be making her first start since winning
the Demoiselle Stakes (gr.2) by 3 ¼ lengths on November 27th at
Aqueduct. She won 3 of 5 starts in 2010 and has never finished worse than
third. She has strung together three fantastic 4 furlongs works for trainer Tony
Dutrow since mid-February, each better than the last. Her last move was a blistering
:47.60 move that was even faster than her March 1st :47.80 bullet
move. Dutrow is confident in his filly’s abilities and especially likes how
enthusiastically she has taken to her training since moving to Oaklawn.
Together trainer Larry Jones and wife Cindy Jones have
won the last three runnings of the Honeybee Stakes and Jones likes his chances
to keep that streak alive on Saturday. Jones has two fillies entered to run in
the Honeybee but it will be Joyful Victory who takes the most action at
the betting windows. Last year Joyful Victory raced just three times, breaking
her maiden at first asking and closing out her juvenile campaign with a third
place finishe in the Grade 1 race Frizette Stakes and a 5th in the
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. She enters the Honeybee off a bullet 5 furlong
move that went in :58.80 at Oaklawn Park and if that isn’t enough to turn heads
Larry Jones says that she reminds him of Eight Belles.
Holy Heavens was last seen winning the Martha Washington
Stakes at Oaklawn Park on February 12th. Closing from dead last in the Martha
Washington Holy Heavens registered a decisive 1 length victory in the $75,000
event. She began the year by finishing third behind Gran Lioness in the My Trusty
Summer Soiree is the second filly entered by trainer
Larry Jones. She enters off a highly impressive 9 ¼ length romp at Oaklawn in a
1 1/16 mile allowance race in late January. Her March 7th 5 furlong
work in :59.20 was good enough to earn her second fastest ranking out of 30
horses to work the distance.
The field is completed by Salty Strike, Norma’s Dream,
Jazzin’ Okie and Hearts On Fire. Hearts On Fire finished a distant second to
Summer Soiree before winning an allowance race last out at Oaklawn. Jazzin’
Okie last finished third behind Holy Heavens in the Martha Wasthington after
breaking her maiden and winning an allowance optional claiming race at
Remington Park. Salty Strike finished third in the Debutante Stakes last year
and opened up her 2011 campaign with a second place finish on February 17th
in a Gulfstream Park allowance race.
It’s hard to separate the top three choices in the race. Joyful
Victory has good tactical speed but she seemed to flatten out in her last
two efforts of 2010 after hitting the top of the stretch. Her works indicate that she is ready to run well and Larry
Jones knows better than anyone how to win this race. Rigoletta is the one with
the biggest room for improvement after failing to impress in her turf bow. She has already
been touted as an “under the radar” Oaks filly and if she steps up with a win
here she will gain a lot of support. Her works are looking very good. Dixie
City enters with the best form in the race and her works have been absolutely
brilliant. It wouldn’t be surprising to see her come away with the win.
Both Holy Heavens and Summer Soiree are intriguing here
and have the advantage of recent good form. Summer Soiree takes a huge step up
in class and I have my doubts that she is improved enough to handle this group.
Holy Heavens didn’t beat much of anything in the Martha Washington but she
still ran a very good race and looks like an improving contender. She could end
up hitting the board with a solid performance.
Photo Courtesy of Coglianese Photos