Fresh off her narrow win in the A Gleam Handicap (gr. II), California shipper Irish Gypsy tries New York racing for the first time when she faces four rivals in the $150,000 Honorable Miss Handicap (gr. II) Aug. 7 at Saratoga.
Irish Gypsy, the 2-1 morning-line favorite, will carry top weight of 121 pounds and break from the inside in the six-furlong Honorable Miss, which has a 5:12 p.m. EDT post and comes right before the Alfred G. Vanderbilt (gr. I) for males. Her stiffest competition could come from Beat the Blues, an in-form filly entering off the first stakes triumph of her career.
Mike Pegram and John Sikura’s Irish Gypsy scored in the July 16 A Gleam by a nose, desperately holding off Ultra Blend after setting the pace. With Martin Garcia aboard, she covered seven furlongs in 1:22.44 on the Hollywood Park Cushion Track. It was the third straight stakes win for the 5-year-old Hennessy mare, the previous two coming at six furlongs. The first of those was on the Lone Star Park main track, so she has had success on dirt.
Bob Baffert trains Irish Gypsy, who will have John Velazquez as the pilot.
“She’s bounced out of her last race really well,” said Baffert. “I sort of got talked into running by Angel Cordero; he says I can’t lose but when they’re in the zone and doing well, you’ve got to run them.”
Martin Racing Stable and Morgan Thoroughbred’s Beat the Blues (7-2) is a neck shy of winning her last three starts. The 4-year-old Great Pyramid filly began her streak of solid starts at Keeneland in April with an optional claiming sprint victory and then was caught at the wire by Sassy Image in the Winning Colors (gr. III) May 30 at Churchill Downs.
Sent off as the 1-2 choice in the June 24 Saylorville Stakes at Prairie Meadows, Beat the Blues prevailed by 1 1/2 lengths for her first black-type win. Overall, the Florida-bred filly, who has been claimed twice, is 6-2-2 from 12 starts. Bret Calhoun has assigned Miguel Mena to ride.
Also coming off a win is Wild News (6-1), who romped by 8 1/2 lengths in front-running fashion June 8 in an optional claimer at Belmont. Wild News, trained by John Parisella, has jumped to the front in her last five tries including the Distaff Handicap (gr. II) two starts back when finishing second in her graded stakes debut. She is likely to set the pace again in the Honorable Miss under C. C. Lopez.
Tar Heel Mom (5-2) has been in good form in 2011, winning three times and finishing second twice. Her biggest win came in the Sugar Swirl (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park in January, while she has also bagged a pair of overnight stakes. Tar Heel Mom, a two-time graded stakes winner, has two decisive victories at Saratoga in her 27-start career, both in optional claimers.
“She’s had a little break since her last race and she’s doing great,” said Stan Hough, who trains the mare for Alex Rankin. “She’s had a little bleeding issue (throughout her career) but I’ve worked her and she’s showing no signs of it, so we’re hoping for a good race from her.”
The lone grade I winner in the field is Champagne d'Oro. The Eric Guillot trainee has not been to the winner’s circle since taking the Test (gr. I) by 4 1/2 lengths last August at Saratoga. Two starts before that she pulled a 39-1 shocker in the Acorn (gr. I) at Belmont. Champagne d’Oro (7-2) has failed to hit the board in both of her starts this year.
“She was good enough last year, but by the time she had won the Test and gone back to California she was a tired horse,” said Guillot. “We freshened her up, and ran her at Calder in a grade I (Princess Rooney). She needed the race.”
$150,000 Honorable Miss Handicap (gr. II, Race 9, 5:12 p.m.), Fillies and Mares 3 & Up, 6 Furlongs PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer 1. Irish Gypsy (KY), J R Velazquez, 121, B Baffert
2. Wild News (KY), C C Lopez, 115, J Parisella
3. Tar Heel Mom (KY), A O Solis, 118, S M Hough
4. Champagne d'Oro (KY), D Cohen, 119, E J Guillot
5. Beat the Blues (FL), M Mena, 116, W B Calhoun