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Gulfstream Park Preview | My Dear Girl Stakes 2023: R Harper Rose, Honey Dijon Renew Rivalry
R Harper Rose (Coglianese Photos / Lauren King)

Gulfstream Park Preview | My Dear Girl Stakes 2023: R Harper Rose, Honey Dijon Renew Rivalry

After Honey Dijon’s second-place finish behind R Harper Rose last time out, trainer Joe Sharp knows only too well the challenge his filly will face in Saturday’s $300,000 My Dear Girl at Gulfstream Park. 

Averill Racing LLC and Two Eight Racing LLC’s R Harper Rose will bring an undefeated record, including a four-length triumph over Honey Dijon in the $200,000 Susan’s Girl, into the My Dear Girl.

The 1 1/16-mile final of the FTBOA Florida Sire Stakes series co-headlines Saturday’s program with the $300,000 In Reality, the final leg for the colts and geldings division of the series for 2-year-olds sired by accredited Florida stallions.

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Neither R Harper Rose nor Honey Dijon have raced beyond seven furlongs and will attempt to successfully negotiate two turns for the first time in the My Dear Girl.

“I think the two turns will be the difference maker one way or the other,” Sharp said.

Saffie Joseph Jr.-trained R Harper Rose is undefeated in her three career starts that she has won by a combined 16 lengths. The daughter of Khozan won at first asking by 6 ¼ lengths before capturing a 5 ½-furlong optional claiming allowance by 5 ¾ lengths. After missing the first leg of the FSS series with a fever, R Harper Rose romped to victory in the seven-furlong Susan’s Girl.

Can the lightning-fast R Harper Rose carry her impressive speed around two turns?

“She’s never done it. She’ll have to do it first,” Joseph said. “I think she has enough class. I was more afraid of the seven furlongs than the mile and a sixteenth, but you still have to go out and do it. It’s a different kind of tempo. Seven-eighths is harder. The two turns here are kinder. I think she’ll get it.”

Edgard Zayas has the return mount aboard R Harper Rose, who will expand her options with a two-turn victory.

“We haven’t thought beyond this race. This race is important for her, so let’s get through this one,” Joseph said. “I think she’s a filly that could become a graded-stakes type.”

Joseph, who tied with Victor Barboza Jr. for the Sunshine Meet Crown Saturday, will also be represented in the My Dear Girl by Calypso Racing Stables LLC’s Pardy Pleaser (Rocco Bowen), who has won one of four races all on Tapeta.

Sharp has reason to believe that Brad Grady’s Honey Dijon will give it her best shot against R. Harper Rose in her two-turn debut.

“She’s a filly that every time we’ve raised the bar, she’s stepped forward,” Sharp said.

Honey Dijon broke her maiden in her second career start by 5 ¾ lengths in a 5 ½-furlong off-the-turf maiden special weight test at Saratoga Aug. 10. She went on to finish sixth, beaten by 2 ¾ lengths in the Untapable Stakes over the Kentucky Downs turf course Sept. 9 before returning to dirt in the Susan’s Girl.

“It seemed like last time sprinting she was wanting a little more ground. She was well in front of the rest of the field. Saffie’s horse, obviously, is super talented,” Sharp said.

“Everything about her says [Honey Dijon] will stretch out,” Sharp added. “I’m looking forward to seeing what she has going two turns.”

Paco Lopez will ride the daughter of Girvin for the first time Saturday.

Quintessential Racing Florida LLC, Rocky Top Stable and LEMB Stable LLC’s Dancing N Dixie will bring the distinction of being the only filly with two-turn experience into the My Dear Girl. Trained by Hall of Famer Mark Casse, the daughter of Neolithic has won both of her two-turn races at a mile and 70 yards, including a 3 ¾-length maiden score and a half-length triumph in the Nov. 4 Our Dear Peggy. Both races were contested over Gulfstream’s Tapeta course.

Dancing N Dixie was fourth and a distant fifth in her two prior starts while sprinting on dirt.

Miguel Vasquez has the return call on Dancing N Dixie.

Jacks or Better Farm Inc.’s Fields of Green (Leonel Reyes) and BC Racing LLC’s Haunted (Emisael Jaramillo), who finished third and fourth in the Susan’s Girl, are scheduled to return in the My Dear Girl.

Alex and JoAnn Lieblong’s Unrelentless (Joe Bravo), and Gelfenstein Farm LLC’s Reina Mar (Angel Morales) round out the field.