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Gulfstream Park Picks | Royal Delta Stakes 2024
Maryquitecontrary (Lauren King / Coglianese Photos)

Gulfstream Park Picks | Royal Delta Stakes 2024

Rodney Lundock’s Maryquitecontrary will certainly be familiar with her surroundings Saturday in the $150,000 Royal Delta Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park Racetrack, where the ultra-consistent 5-year-old mare has finished in the money in all 10 of her starts, including seven victories.

The graded-stakes winning daughter of First Dude will be a stranger of sorts, however, when she puts her enviable one-turn record on the line, having never been tested around two turns at Gulfstream Park or elsewhere during her 13-race career.

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Maryquitecontrary drew the No. 2 post position for the 1 1/16-mile Royal Delta, which drew a field of 11 older fillies and mares.

“I think it’s time for her to try. If she can go a mile on dirt, why not a mile and a sixteenth around two turns?’ trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. said. “She drew good, I think, post position-wise. I like that post. We’ll find something out. Anytime I run a horse and find something out, it’s not a wasted effort no matter what happens for me.”

Maryquitecontrary has won twice in her only two races at a one-turn mile, capturing back-to-back editions of the Rampart Stakes, including a going-away one-length victory in her first start for Plesa Dec. 30. She came back to finish third at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 27 in the Inside Information (G2), a seven-furlong sprint she won in 2023 by 2 ½ lengths.

“She’s pretty straightforward. She’s a very sound horse. You don’t have to worry about stuff like that. She’s fun to be around. She has a personality – not all horses do,” Plesa said. “It’s nice to be around her. It’s nice to go to the barn everyday and see her in that stall. She appreciates all the extra TLC, which she certainly deserves. But we try to give them all a little TLC.”

Maryquitecontrary has employed a drop-back, late-kick running style while amassing a bankroll of $622,805 during a career that includes a close second-place finish behind Goodnight Olive in the 2023 Madison (G1)

Regular jockey Luca Panici has the return mount Saturday.

Saffie Joseph Jr., the two-time defending Gulfstream Park Championship Meet titlist who currently leads this season’s trainer standings, is represented by four in the Royal Delta field:

  • Final Furlong Farm and Madaket Stable’s Honor D Lady
  • Vegso Racing Stable’s Imonra
  • Sean Defreitas’ Rosie’s Halo
  • C2 Racing Stable LLC and Paul Braverman’s Libban

Honor D Lady has earned the distinction of having been triumphant on dirt, turf and Tapeta. The 4-year-old daughter of Honor Code, who captured the Honey Ryder on turf last spring and finished second in the Selene (G3) over Woodbine’s Tapeta course, is coming off a pair of solid efforts in graded stakes on dirt.

Honor D Lady captured the Sept. 24 Remington Park Oaks (G3) before concluding her 3-year-old campaign with a solid third-place finish in the Nov. 25 Comely (G3) at Aqueduct.

“After the last race it was by design to give her a little break and point to the Royal Delta. Everything has gone according to plan, so she goes in there with a good chance,” Joseph said. “She’s drawn well. She’s going to need to improve facing older horses for the first time, but it seems like she has improved and since she’s gone to the dirt she’s gotten better.”

Jose Ortiz has the call on Honor D Lady.

Imonra enters the Royal Delta off a second-place finish behind Maryquitecontrary in the Rampart. The 4-year-old daughter of Violence finished second in the Iowa Oaks (G3) last season. Rosie’s Halo finished fourth in the Rampart.

Edgard Zayas has the return mount on Imonra, while Javier Castellano will ride Rosie’s Halo for the first time.

Libban won a Gulfstream optional claiming allowance by four lengths before finishing fourth in the Jan. 13 Wayward Lass at Tampa Bay Downs.

Edwin Gonzalez has the call on Libban.

KimDon Racing LLC’s Tizzy in the Sky, a vastly improved 5-year-old daughter of Sky Kingdom, is slated to make her 2024 debut in the Royal Delta after finishing her 2023 campaign with a runner-up finish in the Dec. 2 Go For Wand (G3) at Aqueduct.

Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher has awarded the mount to Irad Ortiz Jr.

Rounding out the field are:

  • Godolphin LLC’s Nostalgic, who finished second in the Nov. 18 Chilukki (G2) at Churchill Downs before finishing a disappointing sixth in the Rampart
  • Mark Grier’s Opus Forty Two, a multiple graded stakes-placed daughter of Mendelssohn who captured the Wayward Lass
  • Whitham Thoroughbreds LLC’s Magical Lute, who finished third in the Wayward Lass
  • Haras Lizzie Inc.’s Yuki, a winner at Del Mar and Los Alamitos last season
  • Gerald James and Hall Performance Inc.’s South of an Angel, an optional claiming allowance winner at Tampa last time out