Flying Zee Racing Stables' undefeated Agave Kiss is the main filly for five other challengers to beat in the $150,000 Victory Ride Stakes (gr. III) July 7 at Belmont Park.
All six of the 3-year-old runner's previous wins came at the Victory Ride distance of six furlongs, and she exits a career-best effort in the Miss Preakness Stakes. With that score, she earned a Beyer speed figure of 106 as she romped by 5 1/2 lengths at Pimlico Race Course.
"She ran fast, but she seems like she came out of it pretty good," said trainer Rudy Rodriguez. "I'm very, very happy with her right now."
Rodriguez has always been happy with Agave Kiss, who broke her maiden impressively at Belmont last October. She was dominant in three inner-track starts at Aqueduct Racetrack over the winter, culminating in March's Cicada Stakes (gr. III), her first graded score. The filly has made her two most recent starts out of New York, taking the Trevose Stakes at Parx Racing April 17 prior to the Miss Preakness May 18.
On June 30, she breezed a bullet five furlongs in :59.07 at Aqueduct, her fourth timed workout since her most recent stakes win.
"She's easy to train," Rodriguez said of the front-running filly. "We try to treat her right, and she does it all herself. I feel very lucky. I wish I could have a lot of them (like her)."
Ramon Dominguez will ride the 2-5 favorite from the rail.
Of the five challengers entered to face Agave Kiss, Gypsy Robin looms largest. She carries a three-stakes win streak dating back to last September into the Victory Ride.
A daughter of Daaher trained by Wesley Ward, Gypsy Robin closed out her juvenile campaign with a victory in Monmouth Park's Sorority Stakes last September, her second start on dirt. Previously, she finished fourth in the 2011 Schuylerville (gr. III) on opening weekend at Saratoga Race Course. That followed a seventh-place effort on turf in the Queen Mary Stakes (ENG-II) at Royal Ascot in June and an easy maiden score over the Polytrack at Keeneland in April.
This year, Gypsy Robin is 2-for-2, winning the April 15 Beaumont (gr. II) at Keeneland and the six-furlong Inaugural Stakes a month later at Presque Isle Downs. Both events were contested over synthetic tracks, but Ward is confident in his filly's abilities on dirt.
"I actually think dirt is her preferred surface," said Ward, who owns the filly in partnership with Gatewood Bell and Wes Welker. "Our main goal with her right now is the Prioress."
That grade I event boasts a $300,000 purse at Saratoga Aug. 4.
Ward cross-entered Gypsy Robin in the July 5 Western Larla at Belmont, a six-furlong overnight stakes in which she would face males, but said he planned to run in the Victory Ride despite the presence of heavily-favored Agave Kiss.
"I cross-entered because I didn't want to go into the Prioress off a loss," explained Ward, who sent his filly through a four-furlong breeze in :48.32 July 1 at Saratoga. "But then I had Robbie Davis breeze her for me and she just breezed so good. I think she's training better than she ever has before. You never know, but she might run better than she ever has before, too. If she runs a big race, I'd hate to waste it on a lesser stake."
Julio Garcia was named to ride Gypsy Robin, who leaves from post 5 and was tabbed as the 3-1 second choice on the morning line.
Tu Endie Wei, a stakes winner over Woodbine's Polytrack, will try dirt for the first time for trainer Reade Baker in the Victory Ride. Allowance winners Emma's Encore, Jamaican Smoke and Sea Island, supplemented to the race, complete the field.
$150,000 Victory Ride Stakes (gr. III, Race 8, 4:34 p.m.), 3YO Fillies, 6 Furlongs
PP., Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Agave Kiss (NY), R.A. Dominguez, 123, R R Rodriguez
2. Emma's Encore (FL), J. Alvarado, 116, H A Jerkens
3. Jamaican Smoke (KY), J. Castellano, 116, E Kenneally
4. Tu Endie Wei (KY), J.R. Leparoux, 120, R Baker
5. Gypsy Robin (KY), J.A. Garcia, 123, W A Ward
6. Sea Island (KY), A. Garcia, 116, C R McGaughey IIII