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Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher will be represented in Saturday’s $125,000 Tropical Park Oaks by a pair of fillies who will be back on familiar footing on Gulfstream Park’s turf course.
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Cairo Consort was a multiple-stakes winner last season at Gulfstream Park after being purchased by Repole Stable and Town and Country Racing LLC for $875,000 at the 2022 Keeneland November sale. Grade 1 stakes-placed in the Natalma at Woodbine and in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf for her former owners, Cairo Consort won at first asking in mile Ginger Brew Jan. 7. The daughter of Cairo Prince came right back to win the 1 1/16-mile Sweetest Chant (G3) Feb. 4 with an impressive stretch rally that followed a terrible start.
“She seemed to do well at Gulfstream. She had one really remarkable race in the Sweetest Chant where she threw her head at the start and seemed like she blew any chance of being successful at that stage,” Pletcher said. “She made a remarkable run to get up to win.”
Cairo Consort ran out of ground in the March 4 Herecomesthebride (G3) at Gulfstream, in which she was beaten by a head by next-out stakes winners Danse Macabre and Papilio. The gray Kentucky-bred filly went on to finish second, a neck behind Papilio in the Appalachian (G2) at Keeneland before finishing off the board in the Edgewood (F2) at Churchill Downs on the Kentucky Derby (G1) undercard.
“She really ran well four of five times. She didn’t seem to fire in the Edgewood. We decided to give her a break at that point with the idea that we’d have her ready for Gulfstream where she seemed to like it,” Pletcher said. “She looks good. She’s filled out a bit. She’s grown up. She’s been training well. We’d expect her to run well off the layoff.”
Irad Ortiz Jr., who was aboard for all three of Cairo Consort’s Gulfstream starts, returns for the Tropical Park Oaks.
Alpha Bella broke her maiden in her fourth career start in her turf debut a year ago in a mile maiden special weight event at Gulfstream Park. The daughter of Triple Crown champion Justify came back to finish just three-quarters of a length short while finishing second behind Cairo Consort in the Sweetest Chant. The Don Alberto Stable homebred was beaten by just a neck while finishing second in the Tampa Oaks (G3) in her next start. She finished off the board in two subsequent starts before going on a break in May.
“It looked like she was going to win the Sweetest Chant. She hung in there until Cairo Consort got her late,” Pletcher said.
Alpha Bella returned to action Aug. 10 at Saratoga, where she scored by 22 ¾ lengths over her only rival in an off-the-turf optional claiming allowance. The versatile filly came back to finish third on turf at Colonial Downs in the Virginia Oaks, just a half-length behind the winner. In her most recent start, she finished fourth following a wide trip in the Sands Point (G2) at Aqueduct Oct. 14.
“She’s very consistent. She shows up and runs consistent every time,” Pletcher said. “We freshened her up a little bit. She’s coming into the race in good order.”
Luis Saez, who was aboard Alpha Bella in her two Gulfstream starts as well as her Saratoga romp, has the call.
Pletcher is one of four trainers who have each entered a pair of fillies in the Tropical Park Oaks, joined by Chad Brown, Josie Carroll and Graham Motion.
Bradley Thoroughbreds, Belmar Racing and Breeding Stable, Cambron Racing LLC and Laura Leigh Stable’s Implicated and Klaravich Stable Inc.’s Startup Mentality are scheduled to represent Brown in the 12-horse field, while Brown-trained Notinamillionyears is also-eligible.
Implicated, who closed out her 2022 campaign with a victory in the Chelsey Flower before going to the sidelines for nearly a year, is coming off a victory at Aqueduct in the Pebbles (G3) in her second start back.
Startup Mentality closed well to finish third in the Pebbles, three-quarters of a length behind her stablemate. The daughter of Kingman was coming off a four-month layoff following a debut victory at Monmouth Park.
Tyler Gaffalione is scheduled to ride Implicated, while Jose Ortiz has the call on Startup Mentality.
Mark Dodson’s Speed Trap and Di Scola Boys Stable’s Dolce Sopresa, will represent Carroll.
Speed Trap is a daughter of Bernardini who is scheduled to make her turf debut Saturday coming off a two-length optional claiming allowance on Tapeta at Woodbine. Dolce Sopresa is a daughter of Maclean’s Music who has won two of three starts on dirt prior to a third-place finish in the Bessarabian (G2) on Tapeta.
Joe Bravo has the call on Speed Trap, while Paco Lopez is slated to ride Dolce Sopresa.
Motion will be represented by Calumet Farm’s Sun Bee, who had won two in a row before finishing off the board in her stakes debut in the Dueling Grounds Oaks at Kentucky Downs last time out; and Wertheimer and Frere’s Zipadoo, who will make her stakes debut Saturday after finishing no worse than third in four turf starts.
Jorge Ruiz is named on Sun Bee, while Hall of Famer John Velazquez has the return call on Zipadoo.
Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, Tango Uniform Racing LLC and Steven Rocco’s Breath Away, who captured the Sanibel Island at Gulfstream Park April 1, enters the Tropical Park Oaks off a third-place finish in the Nov. 5 Autumn Miss (G3) at Santa Anita.
Vincent Cheminaud is scheduled to ride the Christophe Clement-trained English-bred filly for the first time Saturday.
Holly Crest Farm’s Riding Pretty, Tracy Farmer’s Colonial Pursuit, and Ken Ramsey’s Be My Sunshine round out the field.
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