Arlene London’s Miss Sky Warrior, a speedy four-time graded-stakes winner on dirt, will make her grass debut while seeking a return to form in Saturday’s $75,000 Tropical Park Oaks at Gulfstream Park.
A total of 26 sophomore fillies were entered for the 23rd running of the 1 1/16-mile Tropical Park Oaks, which was split into two divisions to be contested as the seventh and ninth races, respectively. The 11-race program begins at noon.
Three other turf stakes help comprise the final Saturday program of the 2017 calendar year at Gulfstream – the $100,000 H. Allen Jerkens at two miles for 3-year-olds and up, $75,000 Tropical Park Derby for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles, and $75,000 Via Borghese for fillies and mares 3 and older at 1 1/16 miles.
Miss Sky Warrior, by Grade 1 winner First Samurai, put together a four-race win streak that overlapped her juvenile and sophomore seasons. She captured the 2016 Tempted (G3) and Demoiselle in New York before heading south, where she was an impressive winner of the Davona Dale (G2).
The Kelly Breen trainee returned to Aqueduct for the 1 1/8-mile Gazelle, coming away with a front-running 13-length romp over eight rivals that earned her a date in the May 5 Kentucky Oaks (G1), where she was bumped early and contested the pace before fading to eighth.
Breen didn’t bring Miss Sky Warrior back to the races until the 1 1/16-mile Turnback the Alarm (G3) Oct. 28 at Belmont Park, winding up fourth after leading the way for six furlongs in her first try against older horses. Most recently, she was third as the favorite in the Comely (G3) Nov. 24 at Aqueduct.
“I’m trying to get her back to her winning ways. I’ve been told in the past by her owner that there’s a lot of turf in the pedigree,” Breen said. “She worked out on the turf at Palm Meadows and really flew over it. Not to say that she doesn’t like dirt, but we’re going to try this as another opportunity and keep all our options open.”
In her first breeze since arriving in South Florida, Miss Sky Warrior went five furlongs in a bullet 1:00.50 over the turf course at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach County. She covered the same distance in an easy 1:04 Dec. 15.
Breen said the timing of the Oaks is an ideal bridge for Miss Sky Warrior’s return to dirt in the $200,000 Royal Delta (G2) for fillies and mares 4 and up going one mile Feb. 19 at Gulfstream.
“There weren’t many options right now, so if we’re going to look for something late in February this was a good spot,” he said. “Her workout two weeks ago was as good as I’ve seen on the grass. We breezed her behind horses on the turf to make sure that she liked the grass and see how she accelerated. If she makes the lead, great. If she can rate, it would be even better.”
Miss Sky Warrior will carry co-highweight of 121 pounds including jockey Nik Juarez from Post 1 in the field of 13.
Also at 121 pounds are Buttonwood Farm’s Rose Tree and Alastar Thoroughbred Company and Michael Valdes’ Storm the Hill. From the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard, Rose Tree has one win from six starts this year and a pair of seconds in Pennsylvania-bred stakes, finishing seventh in the Safely Kept Stakes at Laurel Park last out Nov. 11.
Storm the Hill will be making her first start for trainer Eddie Kenneally after posting three wins and two thirds from nine races, mostly in California, for Peter Miller. Winner of the 5 ½-furlong Unzip Me Stakes Sept. 30 at Santa Anita, she rallied to be third in the Autumn Miss (G3) there Oct. 29 in her most recent effort.
Ultra Brat upset last year’s Tropical Park Oaks at odds of 36-1 for Graham Motion, and the trainer returns to defend his title with Wertheimer and Frere’s English homebred Westit. A daughter of leading sire Tapit, she will be making her third U.S. start following off-the-board finishes in the Athenia (G3) against older horses and Mrs. Revere (G2) this fall, beaten less than nine lengths combined.
Also entered are stakes-placed Ellery Lane, Bernadiva and Overnegotiate, along with Dream Awhile, Momentiempo, Jaunt, Bride Street, Charged and Bigkat and Camille.
Another field of 13 is set to line up for the second division of the Tropical Park Oaks, among them six stakes winners led by Cheryl and John Banner’s Maryland homebred My Sistersledge whose first seven career starts, including her maiden victory in March, came over the Gulfstream turf.
Trainer Mike Trombetta stretched the dark bay or brown daughter of Etched out from 5 ½ furlongs to 1 1/8 miles in the Maryland Million Ladies Oct. 21 at Laurel Park, where she came with a drive up the inside to win by a nose.
My Sistersledge shows three sharp works over the Gulfstream grass since arriving this month, going five furlongs in a bullet 58.96 seconds Dec. 17. Emisael Jaramillo will be aboard for the first time from Post 9 at 121 pounds, a highweight they share with the other five stakes winners.
“She’s worked well down here and she’s been training well, so we’ll give it a try,” Trombetta said. “She ran really big last time and after winning that Maryland Million race we feel like she deserves a shot in there.”
Magic Stables’ Florida-bred Lirica, winner of the seven-furlong Sunshine Millions Distaff Preview Nov. 11 at Gulfstream Park West, will make her 20th career start – and first on dirt – in the Oaks. She drops back to her own age group after six straight tries against older horses for trainer Antonio Sano, seeking her seventh overall victory.
Lirica has raced exclusively in Florida during her career, also winning the Hut Hut Stakes as a 2-year-old last December at Gulfstream and placing in three other stakes this year including the one-mile Sea of Grass Sept. 16.
“It will be her first time on the grass,” Sano said. “There wasn’t a race for her on the dirt so we’re going to try it and I think she will handle it. The race is not easy but it will give us a chance to see if she likes it. She’s had a good year and she’s doing well.”
Ontario-bred Ghostly Presence has won multiple stakes over Woodbine’s synthetic surface and exits a 1 ¾-length triumph in the Jammed Lovely Stakes Nov. 11 under Rafael Hernandez, a one-time Championship Meet regular who returns to ride from Post 3.
Super Marina won the off-the-turf Wild Applause June 24 at Belmont Park and will be racing on Lasix for the first time for trainer George Weaver. I’m Betty G has two wins, a second and two thirds from six starts since joining trainer Mike Maker in the spring, including a victory in the 1 1/16-mile Pearl Necklace against fellow Maryland-breds July 15 at Laurel.
Also from Canada is Mark Dodson’s Sister Nation, third in the May 21 Selene (G3) and Nov. 26 Bessarabian (G2), both over Woodbine’s synthetic course, for trainer Mike DePaulo. Fourth in the Old Hat over Gulfstream’s main track in January, she won the 6 ½-furlong Ruling Angel Stakes Oct. 8 at Woodbine.
Completing the field are Taperge, second by less than a length in the Commonwealth Oaks (G3) Sept. 30 at Laurel; stakes-placed Team of Teams and Spanish Harlem; Speighgal, a winner of two straight making her stakes debut; Lido, Flying Harmony and English Affair.
Source: Gulfstream Park