You can probably guess from the title what three fillies I’m
about to talk about; Sassy Image, Winter Memories and Éclair de Lune. Memorial
Day weekend is always one of the most exciting few days in spring for racing
enthusiasts, it ushers in the changing of the guard in a manner of speaking.
Most of the big graded stakes races that are held in the southern states and
Californian now have to vie with the powerful presence of Belmont Park and New
York racing opening for their meets. The Met Mile always takes top billing this
weekend every year but a plethora of graded stakes races, beginning on Friday
and going through Monday, will play the part of a strong supportive cast with
fields chockfull of proven, talented fields.
On Monday the Grade 1 Gamely Stakes, Grade 2 Sands Point
Stakes and the Grade 3 Winning Colors Stakes will represent some of the finest
in filly and mare racing spanning three different states; California, New York
and Kentucky. Éclair de Lune and Malibu Pier headline a field of eight fillies
in the Gamely Stakes at Hollywood Park (gr.1). The 1 1/8 mile test for 3 year
olds and up will be run with a $250,000 purse this year over the turf and boasts
five graded stakes winners.
Malibu Pier enters off two straight graded stakes scores
over Santa Anita’s turf course in the March 19th Santa Ana Stakes and
the April 16th Santa Barbara Handicap, both grade 2. Éclair de Lune
finished fifth behind Malibu Pier in the Santa Ana two starts back and enters
riding a four race losing streak where her best finish was fourth place. Dubawi
Heights will stretch out to 1 1/8 miles for the first time but has won her last
three starts, two of them over Hollywood Park’s turf course. Cozie Rosie last
finished second to Malibu Pier in the Santa Barbara Handicap. She started the
year out winning the Beuna Vista Handicap (gr.2) over Briecat and Malibu Pier
before closing out 2010 with a Grade 3 win and another Grade 2 runner up finish
to Evening Jewel in the Honeymoon Stakes way back in late May.
I’ve always liked Éclair de Lune a lot but I think Cozie
Rosie and Malibu Pier have superior form coming into this race and Dubawi
Heights seems to be rounding into the best condition of her career.
There is something thrilling about watching an all grey,
almost white horse racing through the stretch, contrasting sharply against a
sea of bay, chestnut and near black coats. They are easy to spot because they
stand out like a bride at the wedding, and in the case of a filly like Winter
Memories, they are usually crossing the finish line first.
Last year Winter Memories completed a short but brilliant
juvenile campaign with a runner up finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies
Turf. After breaking her maiden she went straight to Grade 3 winner when capturing
the Miss Grillo with an electrifying turn of foot in the stretch before her
runner up effort at the Breeders’ Cup. This year she made good on her three
year old debut by winning the Appalachian Stakes (gr.3) at Keeneland by a
thrilling neck, proving that she is back and as good as ever. Now she headlines
a field of seven sophomore fillies in the Sands Point Stakes (gr.2) at Belmont
Park, just one race before the Met Mile.
Mystical Star has raced just three times in her career,
breaking her maiden at first asking in late January before finishing second to
Dynamic Holiday in the Herecomesthebride Stakes (gr.3) at Gulfstream Park. She returned
a winner at Keeneland in her last race on April 27thth
place clunker in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf and an 8th
place finish in a Gulfstream allowance in late March. in an allowance
race over the synthetic surface and will be cutting back in distance for the 1
1/16 mile Sands Point as all of her starts have come at 1 1/8 miles. Naples Bay
is undefeated in two starts; a maiden score and an allowance win at Gulfstream,
but has not started since late March. Life’s Measure enters off two straight
scores at Belmont Park over the dirt but the two worst performances of her
career have come over turf so I’m not sure she belongs here at all. Celestian
Kitten enters off a maiden race score while Parting Words enters off a third
place finish behind Winter Memories in the Appalachain last out. Arch Support
finished second in the Miss Grillo to Winter Memories last year.
Winter Memories is easily the class of this field and should
be able to score her third graded stakes win. This would have been a great spot
for Kathmanblu to return to the races after her failed Kentucky Oaks run if her
connections are thinking turf again but we’ll just have to wait a little while
longer for Winter Memories to encounter a challenger of that caliber this year.
The 6 furlong Winning Colors Stakes (gr.3) is easily the
weakest field, save one filly, of the three graded stakes mentioned earlier. Sassy
Image defeated a classy field when becoming a Grade 1 winner earlier this month
in the Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs and now she returns to the scene of
her greatest triumph to attempt to win back-to-back graded stakes on Monday,
something she hasn’t accomplished since her juvenile year in 2009 when she won
the Pocahontas (gr.3) and Golden Rod Stakes (gr.2). Trained by Dale Romans of recent
Shackleford fame, Sassy Image has won four of her last seven starts and is a perennial
consistent top performer. She is the sole graded stakes winner in the field and
will be facing just one black type stakes winner in Stephanie Got Even who won
the American Beauty Stakes on January 23rd but has since finished 3rd
and 5th in two graded stakes races. Fortune Play and Beat the Blues are the only
two contestants aside from Sassy Image entering the Winning Colors off wins,
both allowance optional claiming scores.
Unless something hugely unexpected takes place and Sassy
Image decides not to show up this is her race to lose as there is nothing close
to her caliber running.
Photo Courtesy of Keeneland/Coady Photography