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D. J. Stable’s British-bred Golden Ghost, riding the momentum of back-to-back wins, will get the chance to extend her streak when she makes the jump to graded-stakes company for Saturday’s $175,000 Sweetest Chant (G3) at Gulfstream Park.
The 29th running of the 1 1/16-mile Sweetest Chant for fillies is joined by the Swale, the Forward Gal, & the Kitten’s Joy as 3-year-old stakes on Saturday’s undercard.
The 4 events support a 12-race card anchored by the $250,000 Holy Bull Stakes (G3), Gulfstream Park’s next stop on the road to the $1 million Florida Derby (G1) March 31.
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Based with Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream Park’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach County, Golden Ghost debuted last summer in the 5 ½-furlong Astoria at Belmont Park, running fourth.
She was then switched to the turf, where she finished sixth and fifth in successive maiden events at Saratoga.
Golden Ghost graduated in a one-mile maiden special weight Dec. 2 at Del Mar, drawing off to win by 1 ¾ lengths, then made a successful transition to Gulfstream Park’s all-weather Tapeta course in an off-the-turf optional claiming allowance going 1 1/16 miles Jan. 12, getting an ideal stalking trip and coming on to win by a length as the favorite.
“She seems to be on the improve right now,” Casse’s assistant trainer, Nick Tomlinson, said. “Obviously we weren’t sure what to expect last time with the Tapeta but she handled it very well. We’re looking for her to go for a threepeat now, so hopefully everything works out and she gets there.”
By $5.7 million earner Medaglia d’Oro out of the Group 1-winning Le Havre mare Villa Marina, Golden Ghost fetched $500,000 as a Keeneland yearling in September 2022.
Tomlinson, who runs the Palm Meadows string, has been impressed with her transformation from training to racing.
“It’s funny, she’s a completely different horse in the afternoon than she is in the morning. In the afternoon she’s completely relaxed and very professional. In the morning she can be a bit quirky,” he said. “We’re very happy with how she handled everything last time out and hopefully she does the same thing in this race.”
Rated at 12-1 on the morning line, Golden Ghost drew outermost Post 8 and will retain the services of Paco Lopez from her last start.
The connections chose the quick turnaround over coming back in the one-mile Herecomesthebride (G3) March 2.
“I think if we weren’t confident, we wouldn’t put her in here,” Tomlinson said. “We weighed our options and we thought this was the best spot for her, going a mile and a sixteenth. We could have waited for the next one, but that’s going a mile so we thought this would suit her better.”
The 2-1 program favorite for the Sweetest Chant is Repole Stable’s Life’s an Audible.
By 2018 Holy Bull and Florida Derby winner Audible (also trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher), Life’s an Audible rallied from last after a half-mile to finish second from Post 10 in the one-mile Ginger Brew Jan. 6 on the Gulfstream Park turf.
“She really was coming at the end,” Pletcher said. “She closed well from a difficult post. She just shows up and gives her ‘A’ effort every time. Hopefully with a little smoother trip she can get up in time.”
Life’s an Audible boke her maiden second time out last summer at Saratoga in her first race on turf, then stepped up and was beaten a half-length by subsequent Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) winner Hard to Justify in the 1 1/16-mile Miss Grillo (G2) at Aqueduct.
Fifth in the same Breeders’ Cup race, Life’s an Audible drew the rail with Irad Ortiz Jr.
“We’ve always liked her,” Pletcher said. “She kind of showed us early on that she took a liking to the turf, and she’s been versatile enough to run short and then stretch out. She’s a real sweet filly to be around and train. She’s very straightforward, and you have to admire her consistent effort every time.”
Qatar Racing’s Irish-bred Milliat stretches out around two turns for the first time in just her third start and second in North America. A debut winner last September on the all-weather in Ireland, she came from last to be second by a neck to Ozara in the 7 ½-furlong Wait a While Dec. 9 on the local turf.
“She gallops a mile and a quarter and handles them well, so distance shouldn’t be an issue,” trainer Jack Sisterson said. “In her works, her gallop outs are strong. She’s big-striding for sort of an average-sized filly so she should probably actually prefer the mile and a sixteenth.”
Irish jockey Oisin Murphy rides Milliat from Post 7.
Completing the field are:
Legalize will venture to Gulfstream Park in search of his third straight victory and second stakes success in a row in Saturday’s $125,000 Claiborne Farm Swale, a seven-furlong sprint.
Legalize is owned by Twin Brook Stables, Belladonna Racing LLC, Nice Guys Stables, West Point Thoroughbreds, Iapetus Racing, S. Hornstock, Runnels Racing, Perrine Time Thoroughbreds, R T R Stables LLC, Peppermint Stables LLC and Manganaro Bloodstock.
Making his first southern Florida appearance, he has been prepared for his 3-year-old debut by trainer Cherie DeVaux at Fair Grounds.
“There are limited opportunities right now for a sprinter in his division. We wanted to stretch him out a little bit,” DeVaux said. “It’s the next logical step in his form cycle.”
The son of Constitution graduated in front-running fashion Nov. 23 at Churchill Downs in his second career start before capturing the six-furlong Sugar Bowl at Fair Grounds by 2 ½ lengths Dec. 23.
“He ran really well. He sat close to the early pace and kicked clear,” DeVaux said. “He broke his maiden on the lead, so that showed that he can win and not be right on the pace.”
Legalized, who was purchased for $500,000 at the 2022 OBS October sale, may or may not be stretched out around two turns in the future.
“Physically, he’s a slight horse, so we’ll just have to see,” DeVaux said. “If he runs well and acts like he can handle more distance, that’s the next logical step to take.”
Luis Saez has the return call on Legalize.
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Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC and Three Chimneys Farm’s Risk It also ventures from Fair Grounds for a start in the Swale after finishing fifth in the 1 1/16-mile Gun Runner Dec. 23.
The Steve Asmussen-trained son of Gun Runner, who finished fourth in the 1 1/16-mile Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) Nov. 25 at Churchill Downs, cuts back to one turn for the Swale.
Risk It launched his career with a 4 ½-length victory at six-furlongs at Saratoga before finishing second in the one-turn mile Iroquois (G3) at Churchill Downs.
Tyler Gaffalione, who was aboard Risk It for his first three starts, returns for the Swale.
Kaleem Shah Inc.’s Billal will also return to one turn in the Swale following a tiring eighth in the 1 1/8-mile Remsen (G2) at Aqueduct.
Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, the son of Street Sense broke his maiden in his second career start at seven furlongs before finishing third in the one-turn mile Nashua at Aqueduct.
Junior Alvarado has the return call.
CTR Stables LLC and Lady Sheila Stable’s Colorado Cruiser is scheduled to make his first start for trainer Jack Sisterson in the Swale.
The son of Catalina Cruiser has started four times in Southern California, where he broke his maiden at six furlongs last time out at Santa Anita Dec. 26.
Oisin Murphy will ride Colorado Cruiser for the first time.
Granpollo Stable’s Gran Mo the First is scheduled to make his first start on dirt in the Swale.
The Victor Barboza Jr.-trained son of Uncle Mo won his first two starts at Gulfstream Park on Tapeta before finishing third in the Zuma Beach (G3) on turf at Santa Anita Oct. 8.
Paco Lopez will ride Gran Mo the First for the first time Saturday.
Following the announced withdrawal of the rail-drawn Bentornato, the shortened field of eight is completed by:
Averill Racing and Two Eight Racing’s R Harper Rose, knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten in her most recent start, cuts back to one turn in an attempt to regain her winning form in Saturday’s $125,000 Forward Gal (G3) at Gulfstream Park.
R Harper Rose will make her sophomore debut two months after running second as the favorite in the 1 1/16-mile My Dear Girl, the finale of the Florida Stallion Series of stakes for juvenile fillies, Dec. 2 at Gulfstream.
Trained by Championship Meet leader Saffie Joseph Jr., the bay daughter of Khozan set the pace in the My Dear Girl before yielding the lead entering the stretch but was a decisive second behind Honey Dijon, more than seven lengths ahead of Haunted in third.
“It was her first time going that far and it was the last leg of the stallion stakes, so you had to give it a go,” Joseph said. “She had gotten sick in between, so she didn’t come into it with the ideal preparation. But we went ahead and gave it a go and she was just second-best on the day. Now we cut her back to what we think will be her best thing going one turn.”
R Harper Rose made her first two starts here last summer and fall, going 5 ½ furlongs before stretching out to seven-eighths for the FSS Susan’s Girl Oct. 21
She won by a combined 16 lengths, all under jockey Edgard Zayas, who returns to ride from Post 4 in a field of seven as the 2-1 second choice on the morning line.
“She’s just a very fast filly. Speed’s her game, but she can also rate a little bit if she needs to. This race we feel like we have her going in the right way, so hopefully she’ll bring her ‘A’ game. She’ll need it,” Joseph said. “She’s had a good preparation going into this race. Cutting back in distance should help her, too. So far everything’s been good to order, so we’re happy with her.”
Repole Stable’s Scalable returns to stakes company following a popular six-length maiden special weight triumph going one mile Jan. 4 at Gulfstream Park.
The daughter of late champion sprinter Speightstown debuted last September at Saratoga then was sent to Santa Anita for back-to-back races, running second in the Chandelier (G2) and fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), both at 1 1/16 miles.
“We spotted her pretty ambitiously still being a maiden and running in the Grade 2 at Santa Antia and coming back in the Breeders’ Cup, so we wanted to put her back with maidens” for her last race, Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher said. “She ran the way that she was supposed to.”
The 9-5 program favorite, Scalable will have the services of jockey Jose Ortiz for the third straight race, breaking from Post 6.
“I think she’s versatile enough. She’s a filly that can go longer and can handle two turns, but cutting back to seven-eighths is probably OK, too. We just felt like this is an opportunity for her to take a shot at winning a graded-stake,” Pletcher said. “She’s very professional. She’s been a pleasure to train. She’s just a filly that likes what she does and goes out every day and takes care of her business.”
Gary Barber’s Witwatersrand, rated at 9-2 on the morning line drew outermost Post 7 under Paco Lopez as she tries dirt for the first time in her sophomore debut.
The Connect filly raced three times at 2, all on Woodbine’s all-weather surface, winning the 1 1/16-mile Mazarine (G3) Nov. 4.
Witwatersrand, whose name means ‘white water ridge’ in Afrikaans, won her debut and was third in the seven-furlong Glorious Song, both as the favorite.
Grade 2 winner Agate Road and his multiple stakes-winning stablemate Noted give Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher a strong hand in Saturday’s $175,000 Kitten’s Joy on the Gulfstream Park turf.
Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable’s Agate Road was beaten 1 ½ lengths as the favorite in his season opener, the one-mile Dania Beach Jan. 6 at Gulfstream.
Away at 2/5, his chances were compromised when pacesetter Tocayo was left alone on an easy lead and kicked away late. Tocayo also returns in the Kitten’s Joy.
“Unfortunately, we just got a little too far behind early on,” Pletcher said of the Dania Beach. “The fractions never really developed; it was kind of a slow pace up front. I thought he closed really well, but just simply had too much to do to close into those slow fractions. I thought he showed up and ran hard like he always does.”
After two straight tries at one mile, including running fifth by 2 ½ lengths in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1), Agate Road returns to a distance where he is two-for-two, including a popular 1 ¼-length triumph over Fulmineo in last fall’s Pilgrim (G2) at Aqueduct.
“I believe more distance is definitely better for him,” Pletcher said. “He doesn’t have a lot of early speed and has a good closing kick, but he can be compromised in slow-pace scenarios like he was last time. That’s his running style. We can’t change it; we’ve just got to hope for a little better setup.”
Jose Ortiz rides Agate Road from Post 4.
Repole Stable’s Noted drew outermost Post 9 under Irad Ortiz Jr. for his 3-year-old season opener.
The gray or roan son of 2014 Holy Bull winner Cairo Prince overcame a troubled start to rally for a neck victory in the 7 ½-furlong Pulpit Dec. 9 at Gulfstream, his return to the turf after finishing ninth behind another stablemate, 2023 2-year-old male champion Fierceness, in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1).
“He really came running at the end,” Pletcher said. “He was kind of bottled up at the start and it looked like he didn’t have anywhere to go, and once he finally got into the clear he showed a great turn of foot and closed a lot of ground in a short period of time.”
Noted broke his maiden going 1 1/16 miles on the Saratoga turf last summer and won the one-mile Sapling on Monmouth Park’s main track in his subsequent start.
He went back to the grass for the 1 1/16-mile Bourbon (G2) at Keeneland, coming up a nose short in his Breeders’ Cup prep.
“He ran a big race that day, just was on the wrong side of a head bob. It was a terrific effort,” Pletcher said. “He’s going to come from a little bit off of it so he, too, would benefit from a strong early pace. He might be capable of laying a little closer if needed.”
Lugamo Racing Stable’s Tocayo has two wins and a second in four tries since being switched to the turf last fall at Laurel Park by previous trainer Rudy Sanchez-Salomon.
He set career-high speed figures in his Dania Beach win, one start after encountering trouble and running eighth, four lengths behind Noted, in the Pulpit.
Qatar Racing and Hunter Valley Farm’s First World War returns to the grass after running second in back-to-back dirt starts, most recently beaten a half-length by Holy Bull-bound Otello in the one-mile Mucho Macho Man Jan. 1 at Gulfstream.
The War Front colt broke his maiden going one mile at Kentucky Downs last fall and went off as the Bourbon favorite, finishing fourth by less than two lengths.
Freedom Principle is entered to make his first start since Nov. 4 and first on the grass after racing four times at a mile and 70 yards over Gulfstream’s all-weather Tapeta course last year.
The Jose Garoffalo trainee is chasing a third straight win and second in a stakes following his 1 ¼-length triumph in the Armed Forces last time out.
D. J. Stable’s Deadpan will be making his fifth start and first over the same racetrack after rallying from last to be third, beaten 1 ½ lengths, in a 1 1/16-mile optional claimer Jan. 13 at Gulfstream.
It marked a return to the East Coast following a sixth-place finish in his stakes debut, the one-mile Cecil B. DeMille (G3) Dec. 3 at Del Mar.
“We were very encouraged from his last run,” said Nick Tomlinson, assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse. “We’re looking for him to make a move forward. It is a bit quick back for our liking, but we weighed our options and we thought this was the best thing for him.”
Deadpan debuted last summer at Colonial Downs, running third after setting the pace, graduating by a neck in his subsequent start at Keeneland, both going 1 1/16 miles.
“I had him at Colonial and I was really high on him first time out. He got a little bit tired toward the end,” Tomlinson said. “You can breeze them all you want in the morning but sometimes they’re going to need a race in the afternoon, especially going a mile and a sixteenth.”
Deadpan drew Post 5 under his fifth different rider, Hall of Famer John Velazquez, who replaces Jose Ortiz, up for his most recent start.
“His last run we were kind of surprised that he was so far back. Jose actually breezed him the week before up at Palm Meadows, so he came in with a ton of confidence [and] he closed really well,” Tomlinson said. “I think he can be a bit closer. We just kind of let him do his thing last time, but we’ll see what happens. Johnny’s a very accomplished jockey so we’ll leave it in his hands.”
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