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Turf Triple-Header at the Gulf

Renewals of the $100,000 Marshua’s River for fillies and mares, the $100,000 Dania Beach for 3-year-olds and the $100,000 Sweetest Chant for 3-year-old fillies on Sunday will offer an all turf stakes weekend triple-header, Jan. 16-17, at Gulfstream Park.

The Marshua’s River at 1 1/16 miles is the fillies and mares companion test to this Sunday’s $100,000 Fort Lauderdale Stakes (G3) and prominent on the roster of 30 nominees are Paul Pompa, Jr.’s Grade 1-winning 5-year-old mare Backseat Rhythm. Also on the list are Karen Woods and Khaled bin Saud’s 2008 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner Maram and Ronchalon Stable’s 5-year-old Irish-bred mare Belle Allure.

Backseat Rhythm is now in the care of trainer Rick Dutrow and has posted a string of strong workouts over the main track in preparation for her return. The daughter of El Corredor was among the leaders of her 3-year-old crop on turf in 2007 when she won the Garden City Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park and finished second in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) at Keeneland for trainer Patrick Reynolds.

Last year, Backseat Rhythm began the season with a third-place finish behind Criticism in The Very One Stakes (G3) and victory in the Hillsborough Stakes (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs. She made three more starts after being transferred to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, finishing fifth last out in the ‘off the turf’ New York Stakes (G3) at Belmont on June 20 behind emerging star Icon Project.

Maram is a 4-year-old daughter of Sahm with four victories in just six career starts for trainer Chad Brown, beginning with her first three as a 2-year-old, including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita. She was last seen finishing sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) at Santa Anita on Nov. 6, beaten 3 ½ lengths by English raider Midday. 

Belle Allure is among the most recent successful European converts in trainer Christophe Clement’s arsenal of turf talent wintering at Payson Park as she prepares for her first start since capturing the Athenia Stakes (G3) at Belmont on Oct. 27. The daughter of Numerous showed promise in French group competition earlier in her career and hit the board in all four New York starts last year for Clement.

The Dania Beach attracted nominations for 40 3-year-olds, including several 2009 Breeders’ Cup veterans and owner-trainer Wesley Ward and partners’ Strike the Tiger, who made international racing news last spring winning the Windsor Castle Stakes at the Royal Ascot meet in June.

Ward also is the co-breeder of Strike the Tiger, by Tiger Ridge, and went into the Ascot race as a 33-to-1 longshot after a winning career debut at Churchill Downs in late April. He returned from England and looked good winning the Chenery Stakes at Colonial Downs in Virginia in late July by 3 ¼ lengths. In one start since, Strike the Tiger finished seventh as the favorite after the Cradle Stakes at River Downs on Sept. 7 run over a track rated ‘good’ after the 1 1/16 miles test was forced off turf. He has posted a string of fast works at Gulfstream over the last six weeks in preparation for his return.

Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s homebred Dean’s Kitten finished sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G2) at Santa Anita on Nov. 7, but was beaten only 2 ¾ lengths. Dean’s Kitten is a son of the Ramseys’ Eclipse champion turf star Kitten’s Joy and had won the Vision Stakes over ‘soft’ turf at Belmont in his previous start.

Leading the list of 31 3-year-old fillies named for the Sweetest Chant are Frank L. Jones, Jr.’s Tapitsfly and Paul Pompa, Jr.s’ Rose Catherine, one-two in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Santa Anita on Nov. 6, separated by a half-length. Tapitsfly is a roan/gray daughter of Tapit trained by Dale Romans and is stabled at Gulfstream for the season.

Another accomplished prospect for the Sweetest Chant is J.W. Singer’s The Mailet, winner of the Miesque Stakes (G3) at Hollywood Park on Nov. 29. She ships in from New York for trainer Bruce Levine. The daughter of Rock Hard Ten had won her only previous start on turf at Belmont after two dull tries on dirt.
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