The lone 4-year-old in a test for older fillies and mares going 1 1/8 miles, Tessa Blue enters off a three-and-half month layoff for trainer Frank Brothers, but should still be tough to beat. The Awesome Again mare’s most recent effort was a fourth-place finish in the Nov. 22 Falls City Handicap (gr. II) at Churchill Downs, where she tired in the stretch during the nine-furlong event.
But prior to that the Maryland-bred reeled off consecutive victories, including her only graded stakes triumph Oct. 5 at Hoosier Park, when she took the Indiana Oaks (gr. III) by 7 ½ lengths under Mike Smith. An even more impressive 12 ½-length win followed later that month in the Inside Information Stakes on Breeders’ Cup day at Monmouth Park Oct. 26.
With a 4-1-1 record from 11 lifetime starts, Tessa Blue has earned a race-best $452,800 for Bruce Lunsford. Out of the Conquistador Cielo mare Blue Sky Princess, she was bred by Frank P. Wright. Smith will get the return call and break from the inside post.
Golden Velvet is the only other graded stakes winner in the field. The 5-year-old Seeking the Goldmare accomplished that feat last out, taking the one-mile Sabin Handicap (gr. III) Jan. 6 at Gulfstream in a dead-heat under Eibar Coa, who will once again be back in the irons for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.
Owned and bred by Darley, Golden Velvet began her career in France, winning once in five tries on turf. She was then shipped to the United Arab Emirates, where she was 0-for-3, two of the losses also on turf. Once she came to the states, Golden Velvet picked it up, winning her debut at Belmont in October on dirt. She was third in the Nov. 23 Top Flight Handicap (gr. II) at Aqueduct before scoring in her 5-year-old debut.
Out of the Storm Cat mare Caress, Golden Velvet has amassed a 3-2-3 record from 11 starts. She will break from post two.
Stepping up in class will be Stronach Stables’ homebred Spring Waltz, a 5-year-old Silver Charm mare who has won three allowance efforts in a row. The last of those came Jan. 17 at Gulfstream when she romped by 13 lengths under Javier Castellano.
Trained by Brian Lynch, Spring Waltz has done no worse than second in all eight of her career starts, five of them wins. But this will be the first voyage into stakes competition for the Kentucky-bred, who is out of the Easy Goer mare Relaxing Rhythm.
Completing the field for the 29th edition of the Rampart are WinStar Farm’s Ballado’s Thunder, J Paul Reddam and Rockin BB Ranch’s Peach Flambe, Lucille Geranis’ Cat Can Do, and Helen Alexander and partners’ Altesse.
$200,000 Rampart Handicap (gr. II, Race 9, 5:13 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 4 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Tessa Blue (MD), 118, Mike E. Smith
2. Golden Velvet (KY), 119, Eibar Coa
3. Ballado's Thunder (KY), 116, Kent J. Desormeaux
4. Peach Flambe (FL), 116, Cornelio H. Velasquez
5. Spring Waltz (KY), 118, Javier Castellano
6. Cat Can Do (FL), 116, Manoel R. Cruz
7. Altesse (KY), 116, John R. Velazquez