Tapitsfly, given a patient ride by Julien Leparoux, swept past the leaders in deep stretch to pick up her first graded stakes victory in the $150,000 Honey Fox Stakes (gr. IIIT) (VIDEO) March 18 on Gulfstream Park's firm turf course.
Winner of the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Santa Anita, Tapitsfly ended a seven-race win drought in the one-mile event for older fillies and mares. The 5-year-old gray/roan mare by Tapit earned her first win for trainer Dale Romans since taking an allowance event at Gulfstream last April.
Frank L. Jones Jr.'s homebred, sent off at 5-1, won the Honey Fox by three-quarters of a length over Bay to Bay, who nosed La Reine Lionne for second. Future Generation finished fourth as the 3-2 favorite in the field of nine. The final time was 1:34.23.
“It’s hard to believe that this is her first graded stakes win," Romans said of Tapitsfly, a lifetime winner of $880,050. "The Breeders’ Cup (Juvenile Fillies) wasn’t graded yet when she won. She really deserves this to go along with her Breeders’ Cup."
Tapitsfly broke best from post 6 but was taken back by Leparoux and settled into sixth. She raced uncovered on the backstretch as Romacaca set the pace over La Reine Lionne and Bay to Bay. Fractions were :24.44, :47.94, and 1:11 flat as Romacaca came under heavy pressure at the quarter pole.
La Reine Lionne gained a slender lead in the stretch under John Velazquez as Bay to Bay and Luis Contreras challenged her to the inside and Romacaca gave way. But Tapitsfly, angled off the rail for the drive, was moving best as she rallied from fourth to pass the leaders in the final strides.
"She broke sharp but relaxed right away for me," Leparaoux said. "It was a nice comfortable pace in front for us. She came out in the straight and finished up really good. Very nice.”
Tapitsfly was coming off a fast-finishing third, beaten by just a head, in Gulfstream's Marshua's River Stakes (gr. IIIT) at 1 1/16 miles Jan. 7. Out of the Marlin mare Flying Marlin, she improved her career mark to 5-5-3 in 18 races.
"She’s won some good races and we tried her in the (Juddmonte) Spinster (gr. I) last fall thinking she might like the Poly (at Keeneland)," Romans said. "It’s a prestigious race, but didn’t work out. She’ll be strictly turf from now on. She’s learned to relax and is a better horse this year.
"I haven’t got any races picked out for her," he said. "It’s a long year. We’ll sit down and map out a schedule that makes sense at some point.”
Grade II winner Bay to Bay could not match the winner late but got the place spot over La Reine Lionne in her first start since Oct. 8 for trainer Brian Lynch.
“I’m really pleased the way she ran," Lynch said. "It was first start back off a layoff, so I’m really looking forward to the rest of the year.”
Future Generation, a group III winner in Ireland, was making her stakes debut in the United States after winning an optional claiming race convincingly in her first American start Feb. 15 at Gulfstream. She was headstrong early while being reserved off the pace by Rajiv Marah and lacked much of a kick in the lane to be beaten by four lengths.
Romacaca finished fifth, followed by Last Full Measure, New Normal, and Cumulonimble. Louvakhova did not finish after being eased in the stretch. She was removed from the course by van.
Tapitsfly, carrying 117 pounds, paid $12.20, $5.60, $4.80 as the fourth choice. Bay to Bay returned $6.60 and $4.20 and completed a $75.40 exacta. La Reine Lionne paid $4.20 to show.