Five-time graded stakes winner Keertana was a close second in her most recent start on the Gulfstream Park turf course, and will likely be favored to break through this time when she leads a field of nine fillies and mares in the $150,000 Orchid Stakes (gr. IIIT) on March 31.
The Orchid is the last of six graded stakes on a Gulfstream card highlighted by the $1 million Florida Derby (gr. I). Post time for the 1 1/2-mile race is slated for 6:20 p.m. EDT.
Barbara Hunter’s homebred Keertana missed by a length in the Feb. 25 The Very One Stakes (gr. IIIT) last out, and was third in the Endeavour Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Tampa Bay Downs three weeks prior to that. The 6-year-old daughter of Johar has worked twice for trainer Tom Proctor since her last start, both at Tampa.
Keertana has earned more than $1 million in her 28-start career, including 11 victories. She has five grade III scores to her credit, including the 2011 The Very One. Julien Leparoux takes over the mount.
“She’s been remarkable,” said Proctor of Keertana’s consistency. “The few times she’s missed the board, a number of them you can attribute to human error--mine--beginning with her first two races sprinting at Arlington (Polytrack)."
The 121-pound high weight is Stuart Janney III’s Hit It Rich, who was a close second in the Feb. 11 Suwannee River (gr. IIIT) at Gulfstream in her 5-year-old debut. The Smart Strike mare closed out her 2011 campaign with a victory in the Long Island Handicap (gr. IIIT) in November at Aqueduct for her first graded stakes triumph. Javier Castellano will ride for trainer Shug McGaughey.
Also in the field is the consistent 5-year-old mare Senada, who has hit the board in seven of her last eight starts. Owned by Lael Stables and trained by Barclay Tagg, Senada won the Rood and Riddle Dowager Stakes on the Keeneland turf last fall. She was third in a Jan. 2 optional claimer in her season debut at Gulfstream.
The trainers of the last two Orchid winners have entrants in the race. Graham Motion, who won the event last year with La Luna de Miel, will saddle Earle Mack’s Clarinet, the fifth-place finisher of The Very One. Marty Wolfson, a winner in 2010 with Speak Easy Gal, will send out Happy Clapper, whom he claimed for $62,500 on behalf of Farnsworth Stables March 17. Happy Clapper was supplemented to the Orchid.
$150,000 Orchid Stakes (gr. IIIT, Race 12, 6:20 p.m.), Fillies and Mares, 1 1/2 Miles (Turf) PP. Horse, Trainer, Jockey, Weight 1. Zapparition, Romans, D Trujillo, E 117
2. Aqsaam, McLaughlin, K Maragh, R 117
3. Clarinet, Motion, H Velazquez, J 117
4. Woodford Belle, Nihei, M Castanon, J 117
5. Shimmering Moment, Abbott, F Rocco Jr., J 117
6. Happy Clapper, Wolfson, MD Saez, L 117
7. Senada, Tagg, B Prado, E 119
8. Hit It Rich, McGaughey III, C Castellano, J 121
9. Keertana, Proctor, T Leparoux, J 117