After returning victoriously from an eight-month layoff last month,
Hard Not to Like will seek her second turf stakes victory of the
Gulfstream Park meeting in Saturday’s $150,000 Suwannee River (G3).
Unraced since finishing off the board in her only dirt start in the
Kentucky Oaks (G1) last May, the 4-year-old daughter of Hard Spun
registered a half-length victory in the Marshua’s River (G3) over the
Gulfstream turf course on Jan. 5.
"She came out of the race well and she’s trained well since that
race,” said trainer Michael Matz, who took over the training of Hard Not
to Like after she underwent surgery to remove a knee chip discovered
after the Oaks.
Being a stakes winner who had been Grade 1 stakes-placed, Hard Not
to Like’s victory was hardly a shock, but Matz was nevertheless pleased
with her effort off the layoff.
“She had quite a good record when I got her, and she’d won quite a
few of her races. But you never know about the first time after that
long of a layoff,” Matz said. “She’s a pretty gutsy little thing.”
Matz hopes he’ll have as much success saddling Ramona Bass’
Applauding for the first time for Sunday’s $150,000 Hurricane Bertie
(G3), a 6 ½ - furlong stakes for fillies and mares on the main track.
The Florida-bred 4-year-old filly won all three of her starts while
trained by Al Stall Jr. before being sent to Matz’s Palm Meadows
Training Center barn three weeks ago.
“We haven’t had her long. She seems to be doing well and she came here in good shape,” Matz said.
Applauding won her debut by nine lengths over Keeneland’s synthetic
surface in October 2011 and came right back to win an entry-level
allowance at Fair Grounds by six lengths six weeks later. On the shelf
for nearly a year, the daughter of Congrats posted a front-running
victory by 1 ¼ lengths at Churchill Downs in November. All three of her
races were run at six-furlongs, but her new trainer expects her to be
better suited to longer distances than she’ll run on Sunday.
"She wants to go longer than three-quarters or seven-eighths,” Matz
said. “The way she acts, she’ll be better as a two-turn horse, but we
have to start somewhere.”