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Caroline Thomas Ready for Suwannee River

Watching late-running horses make big moves from far behind can be exciting for fans, but excruciating for trainers and horseplayers. Such horses depend on having a lively pace to run at, as well as finding a way to avoid the traffic in front of them.            

Caroline Thomas, a 4-year-old filly and one of the top contenders in Saturday’s $150,000 Suwannee River (G3) at Gulfstream Park, is a closer making her seasonal debut in the nine-furlong turf stakes. She is trained by Barclay Tagg for owner-breeder Joyce Young.            

Winner by disqualification of the Lake Placid (G2) at Saratoga Race Course last summer, Caroline Thomas got stuck behind some slow fractions and wound up seventh, beaten four lengths, in the Garden City (G1) before rallying to finish third by less than a length in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) in October to close her 3-year-old season.            

“It’s always a concern for her. I don’t know whether she falls asleep back there or the jockeys do, but a couple of times it’s been deadly,” Tagg said of her running style. “I think if she stays within some kind of fair striking distance, she can be pretty formidable.”            

Tagg picked up his first victory of the Champions meet on Thursday with speedy Munnings Sister, who went gate to wire to win the $75,000 Awesome Feather in 1:03.05 for 5 ½ furlongs.            

“If you’re one-dimensional and you go to the front, you’ve got horse after horse taking shots at you sometimes, and that’ll wear you out,” Tagg said. “And if you’re coming from behind, you’ve got to work your way through or around the whole field. Neither one of them are ideal ways to race as far as I’m concerned, but that’s what she likes to do and we just want to fine tune it a little bit.”       

Luis Saez will ride Caroline Thomas in the Suwannee River. He has never won aboard the Giant’s Causeway filly but has finished a close third in a pair of stakes, including the Sweetest Chant last January at Gulfstream.            

“He has ridden her before and done well,” Tagg said. “I like Luis, I think he’s a very good rider, really. I think it would work out good.”            

Making her 12th lifetime start, Caroline Thomas is competing in her ninth straight stakes and will continue to keep similar company for the foreseeable future. Her dam, Bit of Whimsy, was a Grade 1 winner for Tagg and Young.            

“As long as she can do it and is willing to do it, and she runs well in them, we’ll keep her at the top level if we can,” Tagg said. “She comes from a very good family and she deserves to be in those races. You can’t do anything about it if you get beat heads and noses in top quality races. You’d like to win some of them but I think she’s right there and if anybody makes a mistake, she’s going to be able to pounce and do it. If she shows us she can’t then we’ll find easier races for her, but so far I think we’ll keep her at the top level.”




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