Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Joseph Graffeo, Eric Nikolaus Del Toro and Troy Johnson’s Con Lima, who stepped up and stretched out to become a stakes winner last month, goes after a third straight victory in Saturday’s Grade 3, $100,000 Sweetest Chant Stakes at Gulfstream Park.
The 23rd running of the one-mile Sweetest Chant for 3-year-old fillies on the grass is among five graded-stakes worth $600,000 in purses on a 12-race program highlighted by the $200,000 Holy Bull (G3), Gulfstream’s next step for 3-year-olds on the road to the March 27 Florida Derby (G1).
First race post time is 11:45 a.m.
Con Lima comes from the barn of Todd Pletcher, who also trained her sire, Grade 2 winner Commissioner. Pletcher swept three of the top four spots in the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) on Jan. 23, including the exacta of winner Colonel Liam and runner-up Largent, the latter also part-owned by the Eclipse group.
Already, Con Lima has six races under her belt with three wins and three seconds. Her first four starts came on dirt, including a pair of runner-up finishes in the P.G. Johnson at Saratoga and Our Dear Peggy at Gulfstream in September, both of which were rained off the grass.
Con Lima has won each her races since being switched to the grass, both in front-running fashion over the same course and distance as Saturday – an optional claiming allowance Dec. 12 and the Jan. 2 Ginger Brew, the latter by 3¼ lengths over Honey Pants, who also returns in the Sweetest Chant.
“She’s well-seasoned and she’s run over multiple services and she’s been very consistent and honest,” Pletcher said. “She’s done well on the turf course here, so we’ll see if she can keep it going.”
Paco Lopez, aboard in the Ginger Brew, gets the return call from Post 4 of eight.
Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse is sending out Gary Barber’s Director’s Cut, a daughter of 2016 Preakness winner Exaggerator who owns one win and two seconds in three career tries on the Gulfstream turf course, including a runner-up finish last time out going 1 1/16 miles Jan. 10 in her sophomore debut.
Director’s Cut was also second in the one-mile Sharp Susan on turf last August, rallying from far back to fall 1¼ lengths short of stablemate Spanish Loveaffair, who went on to be second in the Jessamine (G2) and run in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.
“She came off the layoff and I thought she ran extremely well last time,” Casse said. “She’s been training well, so I would expect her to run well.”
Luis Saez has the riding assignment from outside Post 8.
Lionessofbrittany, co-owned by trainer Steve Klesaris, Hibiscus Stable and Dig That Mine, will be racing beyond five furlongs for the first time in her fourth career start. The Anchor Down filly enters the Sweetest Chant off back-to-back victories in a maiden special weight Nov. 4 at Gulfstream Park West and an entry-level optional claiming allowance Jan. 1 at Gulfstream.
“She has the versatility. She’s tactically quick and good enough to be placed wherever the rider wants to be,” Klesaris said. “She’s done everything right. Really there isn’t much around sprinting unless you go seven-eighths on the dirt in the (Forward Gal (G3)) here. If there’s ever a time to try it, it’s right now.”
Sharing a name with the infamous 14th century French noblewoman-turned-pirate, Lionessofbrittany was sold to Hibiscus for $25,000 as a 2-year-old in training at the Ocala Breeders Sales Co. auction, delayed to June amid the COVID pandemic.
“She breezed well on the synthetic at the sale, so we said let’s start her out at five-eighths on the grass. The filly that beat her that day ran some race,” Klesaris said. “Sometimes in late December, the early part of January it’s not so simple to find a first-level allowance for 2-year-olds. Fortunately, we were able to get the last race underneath her. She stepped up in the first-level allowance and showed she belonged, so here’s the next step.”
Edgard Zayas, up for her maiden victory, rides back from Post 7.
Candace O, Domain Expertise, Queen of the Green and White Frost, all coming out of maiden wins, complete the field.