G. Watts Humphrey, Jr.’s Kentucky homebred 4-year-old filly Centre
ranked among the nation’s best of her crop on turf last year with
three Graded stakes victories for trainer Rusty Arnold, and comes out
for a new campaign as the horse to beat in a talented field of nine
fillies and mares drawn for Saturday’s $150,000 Honey Fox Stakes (G2) at
Centre Court’s regular rider Julien Leparoux will be flying in from
California for the mount in the one-mile turf test as she makes her
first start since winning the Mrs. Revere Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs
on Nov. 17 following a good runner-up effort in the Queen Elizabeth II
Challenge Cup (G1) at Keeneland in mid-October.
A daughter of Smart Strike out of Graded stakes-winner Let, by A.P.
Indy, Centre Court ran eight times last year with four wins and four
seconds, beginning with a head loss when second in a maiden special over
the Gulfstream course on March 3. She went on capture the Regret Stakes
(G3) at Churchill in mid-June and the Lake George Stakes (G2) at
Saratoga in late July.
“She’s right on schedule,” said Arnold. “She’s doing great and this is a
perfect spot at a mile to bring her back and set her up for the Jenny
Wiley at Keeneland, which is out first major target for her this year,”
referring to the $300,000 Jenny Wiley Stakes (G1) to be run on blue
Grass Day, Saturday, April 13.
“We considered bringing her back in the Hillsborough (last Saturday
at Tampa Bay Downs), but I didn’t want to her to go a mile-and-an-eighth
in her first race back. She won two Grade 2s last year, but we really
want to get her a Grade 1. She runs her race every time. She’s been
particularly satisfying having trained her dam before her. (Let was a
Grade 1-placed winner of $600,000).”
Trainer Chad Brown holds a strong hand in the Honey Fox with two
solid contenders in Hidden Brook and Dan Zucker’s 4-year-old Pianist to
be ridden by jockey John Velazquez and Martin Schwartz’ 4-year-old
English-bred Samitar with Joel Rosario in the saddle.
Pianist is a chestnut daughter of More Than Ready and a sharp
allowance winner over the course and one-mile distance on Feb. 7 as the
favorite in her first start since disappointing when fourth as the
odds-on choice in the Stardusk Stakes at Aqueduct on Nov. 21. In fact,
Pianist has been favored in all eight of her career starts, winning four
with a second and a third.
Samitar is the more accomplished of Brown’s two runners as the
winner of the Garden City Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park in mid-September
before a fourth-place finish in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup
(G1) at Keeneland last out on Oct. 13. The daughter of Rock of Gibraltar
was a classic winner last year, capturing the Irish 1,000 Guineas (G1)
at The Curragh before joining Brown in New York last summer.
James Scatourchio and J.J. Pletcher’s 4-year-old Channel Lady will
be making her third Graded stakes start at the meet for leading trainer
Todd Pletcher with leading jockey Javier Castellano to ride after they
teamed up to finish second by a half-length in the Marshua’s River
Stakes (G3) on Jan. 5 and win the Suwannee River Stakes (G3) by
three-quarters of a length over Abaco last out on Feb. 9.
A daughter of Scatuorchio’s 2007 Eclipse champion turf horse English
Channel, Channel Lady won three of four starts with a second last year
following a fifth-place debut in an ‘off the turf’ debut here in
December of 2011. One-two in all six starts since then, Channel Lady won
the Stardusk Stakes at Aqueduct in November with Pianist fourth.
Almost certain to insure a fast pace up front in the Honey Fox will
be the presence of Town and Country Farm’s 5-year-old Frontside with
jockey Alan Garcia named to ride for trainer Eduardo Caramori. The
daughter of War Front won turf stakes on turf at Indiana Downs and
Mountaineer Park last year and makes her third stakes start at this
Frontside’s stakes victories came in wire-to-wire fashion. In her
two starts here this meet she set the pace in both, leading the field to
mid-stretch of the South Beach Stakes on Dec.9 before tiring to eighth,
although beaten only 2 ½ lengths for it all by the winner. She came
back to finish fifth in the Marshua’s River Stakes (G3) last out on Jan.
“That’s her style to go to the front,” said Caramori. “She was a
multiple stakes- winner last year and my job is to get some Graded
stakes credentials for her this year. I know this is a tough spot, but
she should move forward with the two races here behind her.” Frontside
hadn’t run since Sept. 8 before the South Beach.
Completing the field for the Honey Fox are Brittlyn Stable’s Class
Included, Francisco Torres; Lally Stable’s Heavenly Landing, Corey
Lanerie; Donald Adam’s Star Torino, J.L. Castanon; and Elisabeth
Alexander’s Namaskara, Edgar Prado.