HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Having successfully seen Mshawish become a graded stakes winner on dirt as well as turf last weekend, the same connections are looking to repeat the feat with Sandiva in Saturday’s $200,000 Royal Delta (G2) at Gulfstream Park.
The 26th running of the 1 1/16-mile Royal Delta for fillies and mares 4 and up is the highlight of a holiday weekend that includes the $65,000 Miami Shores on Sunday Feb. 14 and a special Presidents Day card on Monday Feb. 15 featuring 12 starter stakes worth a total of $680,000.
Trained by Todd Pletcher for Al Shaqab Racing, Sandiva kicked off her 5-year-old season with a 1 ½-length victory in the Marshua’s River (G3) Jan. 9. It was her third win from four career starts at Gulfstream, all on the turf, taking both the Tropical Park Oaks and Suwannee River (G3) and finishing second by a neck in the Honey Fox (G2) last winter.
Irish-bred Sandiva’s 6-year-old stablemate, Mshawish, joined elite company when he became a Grade 1 winner on turf and dirt with his victory in the $500,000 Donn Handicap (G1) Feb. 6.
“We’re going to give Sandiva a try on the dirt. She, like Mshawish, has come over and been successful on the grass but has always trained really well on the dirt,” Pletcher said. “We just feel like the timing of this is good for her, so we’re looking forward to giving her a try on the dirt. We felt like the two turns, mile and a sixteenth in this race is the right place to try it.”
A Group 3 winner as a 2-year-old in England, where she began her career, Sandiva has trained forwardly on the main track at Palm Beach Downs for her dirt debut, showing half-mile breezes in 48.39 seconds Jan. 30 and 48.22 Feb. 6 since the Marshua’s River.
“She’s impressed us on the dirt in her morning works for quite a while, and we’ve been thinking about it. We just figured now is the time to step out and see how it works out,” Pletcher said. “I think she has the ability to have some tactical speed. I would envision she would be somewhat forwardly placed. Where exactly that will be will be determined by what some of the other horses do, but I would anticipate she would be involved early.”
Joel Rosario has been named to ride from post five at co-highweight of 123 pounds.
Looking to break through with her first stakes victory is Godolphin Racing’s Penwith for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. The 5-year-old Bernardini mare captured a one-mile optional claiming allowance Jan. 21 at Gulfstream, her first start in more than 11 months.
“She needed some time off, so we gave it to her,” McLaughlin said. “She’s doing well. She had just been away a long time but she really had been training great and looks excellent, so we were very excited to get her started. It’s a little quick back but she’s doing excellent and we’re ready to go.”
Penwith has previous graded stakes experience, finishing third by a neck in the Demoiselle (G2) as a juvenile and third in the 2014 Indiana Oaks (G2). That year she was also second by a nose in the Affectionately Stakes and won optional claiming allowances in January at Gulfstream and August at Saratoga.
“We hope that she has a big year this year and gets some graded stakes. She’s that type,” McLaughlin said. “She’s 5, but she’s still lightly raced so hopefully we’ll have a big year with her this year and run in some big races. There are no limitations on the distance with her.”
Penwith will carry Luis Saez and 119 pounds from post four.
First or second in each of her last four starts, including a victory in the Sugar Swirl (G3) Dec. 26 at Gulfstream, Miller Racing’s Best Behavior is entered to make her 6-year-old debut in the Royal Delta. Second by three lengths to stablemate Cali Star in the Rampart (G3) Dec. 12, her first start since taking a one-mile optional claiming allowance last July at Gulfstream.
Also opening her season in the Royal Delta is Calumet Farm’s Gamblers Rose, a Pulpit mare who closed her 4-year-old campaign running eighth in the Falls City Handicap (G2) going 1 1/8 miles last November. In her previous start, she led from start to finish to capture a 1 1/16-mile entry-level allowance at Keeneland.
Rounding out the field are 2015 Groupie Doll (G3) winner Call Pat, co-highweight at 123 pounds making her South Florida debut for trainer Brad Cox; and Sandiva’s stablemate, Grade 2-placed Enchantress.
Source: Gulfstream Park